Graham Armitage is a resident of Stoney Middleton, he is a published author who said he had for some time wanted to write a book about the village. The heritage project along with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund is to make that a reality. The book is to be a comprehensive writing on the village, its history and its people. Below is a small and early extract from the book, he reminds us that this may not be the final draft.
History of Stoney Middleton
Chapter 1 – Stoney Middleton up to the twentieth century
Putting together a comprehensive history of the village and area up to the beginning of the Twentieth Century and what might be called the ‘modern era’ is not the easiest of tasks given the limited amount of information available and what follows can only be a summary at best.
However, what I have learned very quickly from undertaking the research for this book is how crucial it is to have some kind of record made for posterity before information vanishes forever into the mists of time.
Therefore, we can start by recording that the first known inhabitants of what came to be known as Stoney Middleton were Neolithic hunters and then the Celts who settled and farmed the area around 2300 B.C.
It is at this point that we become aware for the first time of anyone taking an interest in the thermal waters in the area with the Celtic people, known for their strong reverence for all things natural, erecting a small shrine to their goddess, Arnemetia, in an area they called “The Nook”. In the year 2012 A.D. Stoney Middleton held its annual Well Dressing ceremonies – in the area in and around the section of the village we call “The Nook”. The theme? The Waters of Life.
Many Derbyshire villages are proud of their maintenance of long standing beliefs and practices – but can anyone beat over 4,000 years for the survival of a tradition?
Evidence suggests that, at least until the arrival of the Romans into the area, the population was accommodated largely in mud huts protected from wild beasts and potential marauders by a large surrounding hedge or “tun” – the first indication we have as to how the village may have come by its name – a subject to which we will return in due course.
Life for these early inhabitants seems to have flowed along as peacefully and regularly as the thermal waters until the Roman Occupation of Britain during which Thomas Cowen tells us that the sixth legion marched through “Middleton and Brough” and eventually set-up a small settlement on a nearby hillside which they named Castra Bank.
The Romans also discovered lead in the local limestone and instituted the practice of lead mining which was to become a staple industry for the area for centuries. Quarrying, another major local industry, also originated with the Romans, no doubt seeking a supply of stone for their road building enterprises.
As one might imagine most of the actual physical work involved in the mining and quarrying appears to have been undertaken by prisoners of war and the local members of the conquered population.
Remuneration, as one might imagine, was limited to say the least with the main benefit deriving to the workforce being the ability to obtain stone which then began to be used for people to build their own homes.
Mr.Cowen tells us that homes were built on rock ledges and also, “in the ground”, by which I take him to mean at or below ground level, and adorned with thatched roofs. He also tells us that this practice continued until the middle of the nineteenth century.
Returning to the origin of the name of the village, Thomas Cowen expresses the view that the area had now, as far as the Romans were concerned, become the “Middle Town” between Chesterfield and Brough.
Another viewpoint dates the name as arising from subsequent Anglian occupation with the naming of the settlement as “Middletun” – meaning a circular enclosure housing a small settlement – effectively referring back to the earlier Celtic expression.
This standpoint also explains the “Stoney” part of the name as deriving from the Anglo-Saxon word stoen (meaning a stone) and gives us a “stoney” or “paved”, Middle Town.
In fact these explanations can be reconciled without great effort if one assumes that perhaps the Roman terminology carried through to the Anglo-Saxon era at which point the “Stoney” prefix was probably added.*
[ * Apparently an eminent local historian in Cowen’s time, a Dr.Wrench, was of the view that the Middleton section of the name reflected the fact that the village fell between two parishes with a boundary in the middle. Personally, I find the problem with this is that it would imply the village only acquired a name after the parish system was introduced – an awfully long time for a settlement dating back to 2300 B.C. to remain anonymous – even if this book is called “The Forgotten Village”]
General students of history will be familiar with the period called the Dark Ages which is held to have followed the collapse of the Roman Empire and, arguably, lasted up to the 15th century depending on which version of history you embrace.
It is a period in which progress is considered to have stalled and enlightenment in fields such as science, art and literature came to a halt or even regressed and in which recording of information was minimal and unreliable at best.
Undoubtedly, the Dark Ages did descend upon Stoney Middleton alongside the rest of the nation although in the case of the village we do begin to pick-up a measure of information mainly from the time of the Norman Conquest onwards.
The only exception to this which I have been able to discover comes from a further work of Thomas Cowen’s written in 1941: “In Derbyshire Dales” in which he recounts that the “Lady of the Mercians”, one Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, erected an earthwork with a watchtower and ditch on nearby Castle Hill and similar structures on Castra Bank in the year 914 A.D.
These were apparently part of a wider network of constructions throughout the neighboring areas of Derbyshire designed to deter the Danes who were marauding ferociously throughout many parts of England at the time.
The efficacy of these defenses was eventually tested in 915 A.D. when bands of Danes surged along paths through Derby and Bakewell and attacked Ethelfreda’s constructions only to be well and truly repulsed by the determined efforts of what was, no doubt at the time, the flower of Derbyshire manhood.
Not content with a successful defense of their homes the heroes of Stoney then pursued and harried the Danes severely reducing any capacity they might have had to be a threat in the future.
Putting this interlude aside we come now to the Norman Occupation and the subsequent production of the Domesday Book.
The village duly makes its appearance, referred to by this time as: “The Ancient Manor of Middletune”, with the full entry reading: “In Middletvne Goded had iv bovates of land available. Land for iv oxen, viii Villanes and 1 bordar, with ii ploughs and iv acres of meadow and little underwood, valued at vi shillings.”
Incidentally, for those, like myself, not entirely familiar with 11th century English spellings and usage, ‘Manor’ meant the whole extent of land held by a Norman Baron over which he had complete jurisdiction and control, a ‘bovate’ was an area of ploughland varying from 8 to 24 acres in size, a ‘villane’ (from the French villien) broadly speaking means a peasant and a ‘bordar’ is a copyholder.
Put another way, from 1066 onwards England including the, “Ancient Manor of Middletune” was very much under new management and the new Norman masters wasted no time in imposing their own rules.
The Conquest had placed the village at the centre of a number of trade routes and also led the new Norman masters to exploit the possibilities involved in reviving the lead mining tradition.
In due course another stone fortress was erected on Castle Hill (Ethelfreda’s construction having presumably been destroyed or fallen into disrepair in the interim) to enforce order on a still resentful local population and “yeoman” farmers were encouraged to settle in the area and build themselves, “Manor Houses”.
Early “owners” of The Manor of Middletune were the Bernakes of Upper Padley (builders of a house on Easton Fold and a windmill at Mill Croft) who eventually decamped to Padley, changing their name in the process, followed by the Furnival family, a subsequent passage by marriage to the Earl of Shrewsbury and then coming under the patronage of the Countess of Pembroke; thence the Saville family, then the Countess of Burlington and finally the Cavendish family.
Thomas Cowen provides a splendid quotation from a “History of Eyam” written by a Mr. Woods: “Elizabeth, the widow of Thomas de Furnival, who died in 1332 seized of Eyam and Stoney Middleton had for her dowry inter alia Eyam, Stoney Middleton, Bamford and Hathersage, Derbyshire, and Treeton, Todwick, Ullay, Brampton, Catcliffe, Orgrave and Whiston, Yorkshire”.
Not bad as dowries go and what the above mentioned: “Villanes”, farm labourers and others located at the bottom of the medieval food chain thought of all this is something that history sadly, but predictably, does not record.
Although Mr.Cowen does give us an entry from the, “Journals of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society” to the effect that in 1363 the Great Court of Baslow dealt with five gentleman from Stoney Middleton who were summoned for fishing in the “preserved water”; likewise in 1368 the same court was obliged to order that, “the tenants of Midleton and Eyam” be “distrained from pasturing their cattle on the moors”.
The variations in the spelling of the village name were apparently quite common in the usage of the English language at that time.
Thomas Cowen is to be commended for having discovered, from a variety of sources, a number of land transfers in the area of the village around this period of history (to whit 1393, 1395and 1421) indicating that life was going forward in Stoney Middleton despite the ravages inflicted on the entire country at this time by the Hundred Years War and the Black Death (1348).
It is also worth pointing out that there are homes in the village which date back to this period and, indeed, earlier including Spa Cottage, adjacent to St. Martin’s church, which is believed to date back to Anglo Saxon times and Church View in the Nook which was built before 1400.
St. Martin’s itself can offer more than enough history to be the subject of the separate section located elsewhere in this book but it is worth noting that it was in 1415 that a stone church was built in the village for the first time to replace an existing wooden chapel.
The inspiration for this was the commemoration of the return from Agincourt of local nobleman Sir Richard Eyre.
Ardent film buffs may have noticed something of a parallel with the Woody Allen film Zelig here – Stoney residents seem to present at all the great moments in history (a pattern we shall see repeated as the history of the village unfolds) who knows what deep significance this implies?
Information about the village then becomes scarce again until the 1600s after which a number of stories that have become a key part of the folklore of the village begin to emerge.
In the country as a whole the two main events of the century were the Civil War in 1642 and the Plague in 1665.
Stoney Middleton seems to have escaped the worst of the former despite considerable conflict in the area as a whole with, for example, nearby Bakewell changing hands between the two antagonists on several occasions.
That said, as the village was the still part of the estates of the Catholic Padley family, it was eventually seized by the then Protestant Government and sold to a Mr. Robert Ashton of Castleton.
Mr.Ashton also acquired the position of High Sherriff of Derbyshire; presumably his duties were akin to those exercised by his equivalent at Nottingham – I cannot comment on whether he carried them out more responsibly but with Little John supposedly buried nearby in Hathersage he had at least had a reminder of possible consequences to keep him in line!
Turning to the Plague, one of the best known tales of this time is that of the sacrifice of the people of Eyam.
As is generally well known, once the inhabitants of Eyam village discovered that the bubonic plague was loose amongst them they chose to voluntarily isolate themselves from contact with anyone outside the village in order to prevent the spread of infection.
There are numerous memorials and plaques in Eyam concerning these events and it is still possible to view on the Cliff Top, just outside the village, a stone on which food and other provisions were placed by Stoney Middleton residents and in which Eyam people would place money in holes drilled into the rock and filled with vinegar which neutralized the infection.
As a result of this Stoney Middleton avoided the devastation which the plague brought to so many parts of the country.
However, there are different types of causality in times of this nature and in: “In Derbyshire Dales”, Thomas Cowen recites the story of Rowland Torre: “a young miller residing in Middleton Dale”, who had been courting a Miss Emma Sydall from Eyam and was expected to marry her at the Eyam Wakes in 1666.
In October 1665, however, the plague arrived in Eyam, apparently in a parcel of clothes sent from London, and within a month was raging through the village as a whole and through Emmot’s family in particular; taking the lives of her father, five sisters and a brother, leaving only Emmot and her mother.
Although unable to touch each other physically Emmot and Rowland began to meet and converse at a distance at a former trysting place in Cussy Dell.
As time passed the deaths began to diminish and Rowland continued to insist that the marriage should go ahead.
Sadly, fate had one more cruel trick to play – even as spring advanced and hope generally began to return – it became apparent that the plague had one more victim to claim and Rowland was forced to watch as Emmot began to fade each time he met her until a day came when she did not meet him at all.
Emmot was buried on 29th April 1666, history does not record what happened to Rowland; the two villages both survived and went on to recover and prosper.
Moving into the 1700s, we arrive firstly at 1743 and an account from Thomas Cowen of a Lord Duncannon riding through Middleton Dale when his horse stumbled against a piece of spar. Picking it up he judged it to be a “pretty ornament” and recruited local statuary, a Mr.H.Watson, of Bakewell, to remake it into a vase. This, apparently, is the first recorded instance of the use of the substance now known throughout the world as Blue John to create ornaments.
Blue John mining is still of course a successful local Derbyshire industry, albeit of course, centered mainly around the village of Castleton but, nonetheless, originating it would seem in Stoney Middleton.
The 1700s also produced no less than three local stories that have become part of village folklore.
Firstly, we have the tale of the murdered Scottish peddler.
What is definitely known about this unfortunate soul is that in 1763 his corpse was found in Cael’s (or Gael’s) Wark Cavern and identified through clothing, shoes, buckles and the like.
Legend has it that he found his way there after being killed in the yard of the Old Moon Inn (“Old” because its location at the time, as we shall see, was not where you find the present day Moon Inn) unbeknown to the landlord his body was then transported and hidden, not to be discovered until some twenty years later.
As to who perpetrated this dreadful crime the only hint we have is Mr.Cowen’s statement that: “A woman, the principal of this dark deed, died miserably of cancer”.
Incidentally, he also tells us that Rowland Torre had bought a ring for his bride, Emmot, from the same Scottish peddler – if you do the math’s on this one you are forced to conclude that this gentleman may have come to a bad end but clearly enjoyed remarkable longevity prior to meeting his fate!
Meanwhile, in 1758 another of Stoney Middleton’s public houses, the Royal Oak Inn (see elsewhere for a fuller study of the village’s enthusiastic ties to the licensed trade over the centuries including more on the Moon Inn – the last survivor of an impressive range of public houses), was visited by a “tall young gentleman and a fair maiden both richly attired”.
Identifying themselves as Allen and Clara they appear to have enjoyed both breakfast and lunch before continuing their horseback journey to a destination which the hostess had now identified as Peak Forest – at that time a kind of Derbyshire version of Gretna Green.
Clearly an elopement was in hand but unfortunately, “Allen and Clara” were not destined to live happily ever after; having traversed Tideswell, Windmill, Bradwell and Castleton they rode into Winnats Pass only to be: “foully murdered by five miners for their bag of money”.
The above quotation comes from, “In Derbyshire Dales” and in the same publication, Thomas Cowen, in support of the truth of the story, has unearthed an article by someone called Thomas Hanby written in, “The Arminian Magazine” in March 1785.
Mr. Hanby in his turn tells us that he has received this account from: “a very worthy man, a Mr. Thomas Marshall of Edale, in Derbyshire” and that Mr. Marshall’s source of information was a Mr. James Ashton of Castleton who was one of the murderers and who had unburdened his conscience to Mr. Marshall shortly before his demise.
According to this version of events James Ashton was aided and abetted by Nicholas Cock, Thomas Hall, John Bradshaw and Francis Butler in dragging the couple from their horses and into a barn.
They the robbed the couple of £200 and despite desperate entreaties to spare their lives, “Allan” had his throat cut and “Clara” was killed with a miner’s pick.
Mostly the men did not long profit from their crime – Nicholas Cock apparently fell to his death from a precipice near where the murder was committed, Thomas Hall hanged himself, Francis Butler attempted to do likewise on several occasions, was prevented from doing so but eventually surrendered to madness and John Bradshaw was killed outright when a stone fell from a hill whilst he was walking near the place where the group had buried the bodies of their victims.
This left only Mr.Ashton who is held to have invested his booty in horses and who lasted for around twenty years before confiding in Thomas Marshall on his guilt-ridden deathbed.
Two interesting points arise from this story.
Firstly, in the context of the times, £200 was a very large sum of money and an enormous sum to be carrying around with you. The account from, “In Derbyshire Dales” makes a passing reference to the couple having come from Scotland but I have not come across any other indication as to who, “Allen and Cara” actually were.
We shall probably never know but if they were from, presumably, two separate well-to-do families north of the border they would inevitably have been missed at home.
Secondly, though it is worth bearing in mind that by the time you are reading this book the tale has gone through the hands of Graham Armitage, Thomas Cowen, Thomas Hanby and Thomas Marshall after apparently starting life with James Ashton; there is also a seven year gap between Mr. Marshall hearing the story and passing it on to Mr.Hanby and James Ashton was recalling events in extremis twenty years after they had taken place.
Given the capacity of the human mind to embellish, remember selectively or simply fail to remember accurately at all we are bound to wonder just how true all of this actually is – for example, the idea of the murderers getting their ‘comeuppance’ is morally uplifting but I fear may owe more to wishful thinking than the way life works in practice.
The final tale in the “Stoney Middleton Trilogy” is thankfully a good deal more cheerful.
This is the Stoney Middleton legend and concerns a young lady named Hannah Baddeley who in 1762 had been courting a Mr. William Barnsley for about a year when he decided that his amorous future lay elsewhere.
Hannah decided to end it all and threw herself off the cliff above Middleton Dale only for her petticoats to open out to form an impromptu parachute, allowing her to float down to earth largely unharmed
This experience was sufficient to convince her that life was worth living after all, although she was eventually to expire in December 1764.
The precise place where this is alleged to have happened is currently the site of the Little India Restaurant and has a plaque commemorating and describing the event; said site having been many things over the years including an Italian Restaurant, a café popular with walkers and, not surprisingly, at one time an inn called the Lovers Leap.
This last story ends a little more cheerfully than the others recounted over the last few pages but it is difficult overall not to wonder if Thomas Cowen’s description of Stoney Middleton as a “romantic village” might need to be reconsidered – the course of true love appears to have run less than smoothly for Rowland, Emmot, Allen, Clara and Hannah. Stoney Middleton has its fair share of successful small businesses but perhaps it might not be the best place to open a Dating Agency!
Returning to more serious matters the 1700s are also the first time we have anything resembling an on-going chronicle of life in the village, with Parish Registers commencing in 1715 and thus offering some succor to beleaguered historical researchers.
The 18th century also sees the emergence to prominence of Middleton Hall – still a major residence in the area and described by Thomas Cowen in 1910 as follows:
“On the right of the road from Bakewell at the entrance to the village is an ancient stone mansion with pointed gables delightfully situated in the meadows a little to the east of the church”.
As outlined in the Introduction I do not think that nowadays you could describe the Hall as located at the “entrance” to the village and Mr.Cowen’s description seems to imply that the Hall is visible from the road – that may well have been true when he wrote, “History of Stoney Middleton” but now any such view is largely obscured by trees and a high wall.
Nonetheless, the remainder of the description still rings fairly true – certainly the meadows are still there.
Apart from being an impressive piece of architecture in its right the Hall is significant for being the residence of the nearest thing Stoney Middleton has ever had to a “landed gentry”.
Thomas Cowen tells us that it started life as a farmhouse occupied by a Squire Radford before eventually being acquired by Robert Ashton as part of the estates sequestrated by the Government as outlined earlier.
Mr.Ashton had the farmhouse enlarged and remodeled to supply him with a much grander, “seat of residence” which eventually passed into the possession of the Denman family.
The name ‘Denman’ is still to be encountered regularly in the village (there is a Denman Cottage in the Nook as well as a Denman Crescent elsewhere in the village) and for a time the family was clearly a significant force and influence in the village – and, indeed, in the nation as a whole as we shall see.
Originally from Bevercoats, near Nottingham, the Denman family first come to prominence in the village when Dr.Joseph Denman acquired the Hall and other estates as a result of marrying Elizabeth, the heiress of a Mr. Richard Finney, in 1761 – another Elizabeth and another impressive dowry, albeit not quite on a par with Mrs.DeFurnival’s.
Dr. Joseph Denman was a, “very eminent doctor” famous for writing a, “Treatise on Buxton Water” (presumably extolling the healing virtues of said substance) and had a brother, Dr. Thomas Denman, who was a well-known physician attached to the royal court and boasting a practice in Grosvenor Square.
In 1812 another Thomas Denman enters the picture – the nephew of Dr.Joseph who inherited the estates on the death of his uncle.
It was he who further enlarged and modernized the Hall following the earlier work carried out on behalf of Robert Ashton.
Thomas was to achieve much, rising through legal circles to become a King’s Counsel and subsequently acquiring the office of Lord Chief Justice in 1832 and holding it for a period of eighteen years.
The nation demonstrated its gratitude for his efforts by creating him Baron Denman of Dovedale and then ennobling him as Lord Denman in 1834.
This exalted position meant that he was heavily involved in some of the great issues of the day including taking a leading part in opposing the slave trade, ending capital punishment for minor offences such as forgery and helping to secure the passage of the Great Reform Act 1832 as it subsequently became known.*
*[This piece of legislation has passed into history as a kind of Great Leap Forward in British Democracy but in truth it did little more than extend the right to vote from a tiny percentage of the population to a slightly less tiny percentage of the population -Thomas Denman was on the side of the angels, just about, but it would not do for us to get overly carried away.]
The highlight of his career, however, came fairly early with his involvement in the legal defence of Queen Caroline against King George IV.
This was a royal scandal bearing some similarities to the Charles and Di controversies.
Queen Caroline had come over from Brunswick, Germany, to marry George by arrangement but after a time, as kings seem wont to do, he had grown tired of her and, after the couple had separated some years before, he attempted to end the marriage by divorce in 1820.
As the country was by now a Constitutional Monarchy it was not possible for the king to utilize the somewhat unequivocal methods favoured by Henry VIII in solving problems of this nature and he was thus compelled to turn to more formal legal methods to “put away” his now unwanted bride.
The subsequent legal proceedings were seized on by the media of the day with the same level of enthusiasm with which modern tabloids descended upon the marital difficulties of Charles and Diana and the matter became a cause celebre
with the bulk of the British people siding with the popular Caroline.
Much of this sympathy arose from the fact that the divorce petition was supported by a series of accusations of adultery against Caroline which were widely regarded as fabricated.
If these events had taken place in the modern era then no doubt Caroline would have reached firstly for the indisputable talents of Mr.Max Clifford but as such luminaries were not available in the 19th century she turned to Thomas Denman and a gentleman named Henry Brougham to conduct her defence.
Mr. Brougham was a man of excellent reputation himself in the legal circles of the time but it was the efforts of Lord Denman on behalf of the Queen, particularly in the cross examination of key witnesses, that captured the public imagination.
The king eventually abandoned his attempt and Thomas Denman earned His Majesty’s unending enmity but gained much regard in the minds of the bulk of the country’s population.
When Thomas died his son, also named Thomas, succeeded to the estates – he is charmingly described by Mr.Cowen as “the amiable and accomplished, though eccentric, peer whose special hobby was the raising of a certain breed of black pigs”.
At the time of writing his “History” in 1910, Thomas Cowen was able to point out that the then latest Lord Denman was a “Liberal Whip in the House of Lords”.
However, an examination of the Denman family tree via the internet indicates that when the third Thomas died in 1894 it was in the United States – clearly he had chosen to seek his fortune far from Stoney Middleton – whether said fortune continued to involve his beloved black pigs sadly history does not appear to recall.
Although the Denman family continues to this day their connection with Stoney Middleton ended in 1953 when the estate was sold by the then Baron.
Middleton Hall of course continues to stand, albeit now referred to locally as “the Hall” or the “Old Hall”, and having stood empty for nearly 25 years until 1977, then passed through a number of hands until now been the property of ——–(CONFIRM THIS).
The 18th century also saw the establishment of a turnpike route through Stoney Middleton in1743.
We have noted already that the village had found itself on a trade route after the Norman Conquest but the state of the roads both in terms of their physical condition and the dangers faced by travelers in terms of the depredations of highwaymen, footpads and the like made people reluctant to use them.
One of these highwaymen remains immortalized to this day.
At the top end of High Street shortly before the village merges into countryside you will find Black Harry Lane. This is in fact a former packhorse track used well into the 18th century for transporting goods and frequently preyed upon by a suitably notorious highwayman (what self-respecting highwayman could hold his head up if he wasn’t notorious?) named Black Harry.
Despite acquiring a somewhat romantic reputation highwaymen, including the famous Mr.Turpin, generally robbed from the rich and kept it.
Indeed, I suspect many of those trekking across the peak trying to make an honest living were probably far from rich.
In any event Black Harry was eventually caught and then hung and gibbeted at Wardlow.
As at least a partial solution to these problems Parliament decided to allow landowners, gentry and merchants to erect gates or bars (turnpikes) on roads in return for utilizing some of the revenue made by charging travelers for passage to improve and reconstruct roads.
The toll house erected in Stoney Middleton is now the village chip shop (of which more later) and a Grade 2 listed building as well as being famous throughout the region for the quality of its wares.
Stoney Middleton, in fact, became a recognized staging post between Whaley Bridge and Chesterfield with relays of horses kept at the (old) Moon Inn which also provided refreshment for weary travelers.
In addition the Market Coach regularly made the journey to Sheffield pausing at Calver, Baslow and Owler Bar and other traffic such as carriers carts were regular transients through the village.
Thomas Cowen tells us that the road down which all these worthy people travelled ran originally over Middleton Bank, through the yard of the (old) Moon Inn and joined Calver Lane just outside the village (or vice versa if you were coming from Chesterfield presumably).
However in 1840 a tragic accident occurred when a young child was knocked down and killed by coach horses.
As a result a “new” road was opened with the aforementioned Lord and Lady Denman being the first to ride their carriage through by way of an opening ceremony.
The road was clearly a major undertaking requiring the removal of a hostelry called the Stags Head (see elsewhere for a fuller history of Stoney Middleton’s drinking establishments) and the inclusion of part of the grounds occupied by the Mill Dam – an area apparently known as the “Lomb.”
Attentive readers will have realized that we have now arrived in the 19th century and, as well as the “new road,” the village also experienced two important events that are fully chronicled elsewhere: the building of the Bath House in 1815 and, most importantly, the opening of the first National School in 1835.
In addition, the Village Cross which still stands at the crossroads junction between the A629, High Street and the Nook was erected in 1846 on the site of an earlier “cross” which may have, in fact, consisted of two circular stones.
According to Thomas Cowen this was due to, “the benevolence of Robert Thompson”.
1845 saw Stoney Middleton acquire its own Post Office for the first time. Post had been delivered on horseback to the village since 1805 from the Rutland Arms in Bakewell and it was clearly felt that the volume of correspondence travelling to and from the village was sufficient to warrant the Office which was opened in the second house on the right in the Nook – now known appropriately as The Old Post Office.
Having a Post Office obviously meant having a Sub-Postmaster and this task passed in 1858 to a Mr.Michael Marshall and, in not untypical Stoney Middleton style, remained in his family for over one hundred years – Michaels’s granddaughter Rhoda Worsencroft running it until 1963 alongside her sisters, Mary Ellen and Edith.
Around 1880 the village also found itself with its own Reading Room. Starting life in, “an inconvenient room at the bottom of the village”, it eventually moved on to a site formerly occupied by a Unitarian Chapel.
This was a larger room and was deemed necessary to meet public demand – a tribute to the literary commitments of Stoney Middleton residents (I was genuinely surprised when I found that such a place had existed in what has always been a small village) and a salutary lesson in a modern era when more and more libraries seem to be disappearing with each day that passes.
The Reading Room is now a private residence; it should be stressed, with its prior usage recognized by a plaque on the wall.
Having now managed to progress from 2300 B.C.to the fringe of the Twentieth Century, and a point in the narrative at which it starts to become feasible to envisage the possibility of encountering direct personal reflection as opposed to written history, it is worthwhile pausing for a moment or two to consider a few points.
In particular, we might wonder what everybody in the village was getting up to during these centuries – what did Stoney Middleton do to work, rest and play and (to the extent that we have not looked at this already) how was the village affected by key national events?
Turning first to play, there is no doubt that the highlight in this field nowadays is the annual Well-Dressing celebrations which we shall discuss in later chapters but which, although generally a renowned Derbyshire tradition, only began in Stoney Middleton in 1936.
Prior to this the main event of the year, leaving aside Christmas and the usual religious holidays, was the village Wake.
Wakes are a tradition that are considered to go back to the Danes who, Thomas Cowen tells us, “frequently indulged in wild games in their fits of frenzy”.
Stoney Middleton’s Wakes were not without their own elements of unrestrained conduct by all accounts.
They seem in essence to have been simply a public holiday in which everyone let their hair down with a Wakes Day held on the nearest Sunday to the tenth of October (moved from an original date in September) but with Wakes’ week lasting a full seven days.
Festivities included teas and dances in all the village pubs, roundabouts, donkey rides and the “sports” of cock-fighting and bull and bear baiting which, however unattractive to modern sensibilities, were standard forms of entertainment at Wakes for many years.
The Wakes were also an occasion for former residents to return to the village and renew old friendships and catch up on gossip; as a result by noon on Wakes’ Eve on Saturday the village was thronged with people to an extent that it is difficult to envisage in the modern era.
Joy seems to have been fairly unconstrained and substantial quantities of alcohol were consumed leading to fights and altercations from time-to-time, as well as what Mr.Cowen delightfully describes as, “unforgettable scenes with roughs and tramps who frequented the three lodging houses.”
Thomas Cowen also rather sniffily states that: “Intercourse with town life has eliminated much that was undesirable in village life.”
Very much a matter of opinion if you ask me!
More seriously it should be pointed out that participants in Wakes’ Day would also attend the Harvest Festival held in St. Martin’s Church on the Sunday and generally the resemblance between the way Wakes’ week seems to have been put together and the format of Well Dressing Week nowadays is impossible to ignore.
The Wakes seem to have been somewhat more raucous at times but the main difference appears to be the sheer number of people taking part with apparently every house in the village, “choke full” of relatives and friends and people (including no doubt the aforementioned “roughs and tramps”) coming from miles around.
Well Dressing Week consistently attracts a lot of visitors to the village, there is always plenty going on and it is the highlight of the year for most village residents but sadly the values, attitudes and pressures of modern life almost certainly mean that not only Stoney Middleton but all small English villages will never see celebrations on the scale of the Wakes again.
Incidentally, when order needed to be maintained this was traditionally done by a local unpaid village constable until the Derbyshire Police Force was officially formed in 1857*; overall things could not have been too bad, though, Stoney Middleton felt confident enough in more humane methods of law enforcement to dispose of the village stocks in 1849.
However, it is a sad fact of life that revels must eventually come to an end and people,”roughs and tramps” aside, must return to their daily working grind.
So, if you were an ordinary working man or woman in Stoney Middleton, over the centuries what were you likely to be working at?
Very broadly the answer would appear to be a mixture of industry and agriculture.
*[In this context it would be wrong to overlook the Eyam and Stoney Middleton Society for the Prosecution of Felons. Formed in 1812 at a meeting in the Moon Inn by local residents and having something of the character of a very early Neighborhood Watch scheme, the Society’s ‘articales’ committed it to arranging the apprehension and prosecution of persons, “Charged with murdur, burgulary, trespass and misdemeanours.” These aims were achieved by paying rewards for information leading to arrests and conviction of criminals and defraying the cost of prosecutions if need be from member’s subscriptions. Amongst the crimes tackled by this approach were: ‘theft of livestock, rick burning’ and, on one occasion, the appalling scandal of the ‘theft of a ferret’. The first Secretary of the Society was a Mr.Peter Wright, whose descendant, Robert, became a Crown Prosecutor in the modern era and the Society still exists today albeit now involving itself in the funding of victim support and other charities participating in good citizenship and welfare.NB.CURRENT SEC.STILL JOHN HANCOCK? ]
Looking firstly at industry and putting matters in an historical context, Stoney Middleton was a small part of a country which was leading one of the most major changes in human society – the Industrial Revolution.
Volumes have been written by historians about the Industrial Revolution(s) but the bulk of thinking seems to have a first Industrial Revolution starting in the middle of the 18th century and a second about halfway through the 19th.
The result was massive changes in society and how it functioned, one of which has traditionally been seen as a massive flight from the country to towns and cities prompted by the arising of new industries in the latter and a decline of agricultural employment in the former, partially resulting from a massive spate of Land enclosures.
The reality is a little more complicated – whatever else the Industrial Revolution did it produced the means of feeding a population which, as a result, increased enormously during this period and it was the surplus population that left for work in factories and the like as people had larger families and life expectancy rose (albeit very much in relative terms).
The number of people working on the land actually increased during the time of the Industrial Revolution – a fact born out by the 1881 census which showed farming as the single most popular occupation amongst Stoney Middleton dwellers.
Nonetheless, large numbers of people nationally did gravitate to urban centres
thereby threatening to undermine the long standing traditions of family based village life.
There is little or no specific documentary evidence recording how exactly all of this impacted upon Stoney Middleton but the fact that the village does seem to boast a larger-than-average number of families who have lived here for generations suggests that the effects felt around the nation may not have been felt as strongly here as elsewhere.
By way of, admittedly, speculation, one possible explanation for this is the number of industries actually operating in and around the village preventing the need for the young to seek their fortune away from the hearths of home.
So, what precisely were these industries?
For a full and detailed description of the various industries that developed, spread and, unfortunately for the most part, went into decline the reader is invited to turn to the separate section included elsewhere.
By way of summary, however, the village and surrounding area has played host specifically to Lead Mining; Flourspar Extraction; Baryte production; Quarrying and Lime Production; Candle-Making; Besom Making; Weaving; Flour Milling and Malting and Boot production as well as the usual village blacksmiths, saddlers, carpenters, painters and decorators.
Of these only Quarrying and Boot production, in the form of Lennon’s Boot Factory, are still in the village, having survived to the present day. However, there are many people currently living in the village who have a direct recollection of the other industries – for instance Brian Burkinshaw whose memories of working underground in the lead mining industry well into the twentieth century are recorded later.
In fact Lead mining is a particularly fascinating area with the industry in the Derbyshire area consisting of a substantial number of small operators working individual mines all ruled over by an all-powerful Barmaster’s court giving rise to a complex and often disputatious overall picture.
To quote from the full section on the subject:
“No less a personage than literary luminary Daniel Defoe wrote that miners quarrels; ‘may be called the greatest of all the Wonders of the Peak, for they are of a strange, turbulent and quarrelsome temperament and very hard to be reconciled to one another in their subterranean affairs.’ ”
In support of this view it appears that in 1796 an attempt was made to recruit Derbyshire miners from around the district to join a militia to fight Napoleon Bonaparte. Given the hazardous nature of mining a case could be made that soldiering was not such a bad option but the miners clearly saw things differently – a large number of miners descended on Bakewell where the Justices were sitting, made a bonfire out of the Militia Papers and generally: “made a great disturbance, armed with clubs, picks and spades.”
Turning to agriculture the census carried out in 1881 mentioned previously does have farming emerging as the main occupation in the village with a listing of 15 full time farmers, 5 farm workers and a further seven individuals who combined farming with other occupations such as lime burner, publican or butcher.
This was in line with a tradition which would have started with the arrival of those Celts in 2300 B.C. (remember them? We have travelled a long way since we first met them) and of course very much continues to this day.
For centuries, before the arrival of supermarkets, small villages were largely self-sufficient in the production of both animal and vegetable produce and Stoney Middleton appears to have been much the same.
Moreover, the “cottage industry” aspect we have encountered already is clearly present both in the way in which individuals combine different occupations and in the fact that most of the farming was carried out by a lot of smallholders as opposed to any single large “ agri-business” to use the favoured current terminology.
The pattern was one of individuals farming possibly as little as two or three fields keeping a few cows, pigs and chickens (sheep were often a non-starter as the high lead content in the soil referred to earlier was poisonous to them) and with a substantial share of income coming from the direct selling of fresh milk and eggs to the local population.
In the former case cows were milked in small stone buildings and the warm milk decanted into milk churns and then distributed directly to the jugs of arriving housewives.
It is difficult not to visualise this scene as the kind of bucolic ideal favoured by those who mourn for a “lost England” and in many ways it perhaps was (as we move into the twentieth century we shall meet some fascinating accounts from people with fond memories of growing up on a farm) but it should also be recognised that the majority of people involved in farming tended to only just about make a living and were of course incredibly vulnerable to the vices and vicissitudes of both the weather and general economic conditions.
It should also be appreciated that the farmers were almost invariably tenants with no right of inheritance.
This was part of a process that had occurred over centuries but which historians have recorded as intensifying over the period of the Industrial Revolution whereby land ownership became concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
Thomas Cowen has reproduced the contents of documents going back as far as 1393 recording various land deals, transfers and acquisitions.
• “In the 16th year of the Reign of Richard 11 1393” John Rankell Chaplain acquired two “messauges” of land and nine and a half acres in Eyam from John De Stafford of Eyam and Thomas Amott of “Midleton”.
• In 1421, during the reign of Henry V, a piece of land called “Rylye” was transferred to John and Nicholas Martin apparently again from John De Stafford (who seems to have been perhaps in some financial straits – off loading quantities of land with some enthusiasm).
• In “the 12th year of the reign of Elizabeth” one Humphrey Barley acquired “the Manor of Stoke with its appurtanences and diverse lands, tenements and heriditaments in Hope, Great Hucklowe, Little Hucklow, Folowe, Eyam, Tyddeswell, Litton, Abney ,Alfreton,Teddepole, Baslowe, Howmefield, Middleton, Dronfield, Egginton and Bradwell”*
• In 1665 Robert Ashton, whom we have of course met previously, is recorded as owning land to the extent of “44 acres, 1 rood, 24 poles”.
One could go on with this for some time but the pattern of concentrated land ownership, albeit with very diverse land farming, continues through the centuries and by the closing years of the 19th most land in and around Stoney Middleton belongs either to the Devonshire or Denman families.
Completing the picture of village life certainly in the centuries leading up to the beginning of the twentieth we should also note that not everyone was fortunate enough to be in conventional day-to-day employment or working at all.
We have already heard about the unfortunate Scottish pedlar but pedlars, tinkers and other travellers tended to move around the country freely during these years as did travelling shows (such as the fairs accompanying the Wakes) alongside Mr.Cowen’s intriguing, “footpads, roughs and tramps”.
Thomas Cowen also has an interesting story of a lady called Mary Brady who arrived in the village following a no doubt highly romantic “runaway marriage” (there seems to have been a fair bit of this around at the time – remember the fate of the unfortunate young couple on their way to Peak Forest?) but, “Too late discovered her husband’s drunken habits and was soon reduced to penury”.
Mary Brady (an assumed name in itself apparently – taken from the name of “the assassin of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr.Edmund Barker”) then found herself forced to resort to begging to survive and seems to have contrived to become a village institution, regularly staying in lodging houses and dividing the rest of her time between the home of a particular benefactor, a Mr.Edward Hodgkinson of Baslow Bridge, and the Dale police station in which she was frequently incarcerated for, “wilful damage to property” and being, “drunk and incapable”.
*[This sentence, it struck me when I first read it, is worth preserving in its own right partly for the spellings of the village names (Howmefield, Eyme), partly for the lack of concern with consistency of spelling ( Hucklowe and Hucklow), partly because I haven’t the faintest idea where or what Teddepole is and, above all, as an example of the glorious capacity possessed by the language of the legal profession to make the simple utterly incomprehensible]
Despite this lifestyle which in modern parlance would probably be referred to as “chaotic” she survived at least to the age of 87 at which point she was persuaded by the local school master to have taken the photograph reproduced below.
Elsewhere we are again indebted to Thomas Cowen for a brief snapshot of the operation of the Poor Law in Stoney Middleton.
Obviously this is not the place for a detailed discussion of a system that has passed into history as an iniquitous undertaking which seemed to be designed to ensure that the poor remained poor.
However, “In Derbyshire Dales” does provide us with a record from 1793 derived from a Stoney Middleton resident who was an Overseer of the Poor Law which speaks of an elderly gentleman variously referred to as Matthew Nail or Mathy Neale receiving amounts varying between 2 and 5 shillings per week from the Poor Law Fund.
This information is also interesting as it seems the duties of Overseer of the Poor Law were much more varied than one might imagine. Apart from his obvious responsibilities he was apparently also required to, “disburse the Easter fees to Hope Church”, ”pay the land tax for Stoke-Miln”, pay for the repairs of communal gates and deliver appropriate remuneration to the local constable and mole catcher.”
To give a full impression of the village it should also be emphasised that it was not without its share of culture.
We have already mentioned the Reading Room but it would be wrong not to mention the fact that for a while at least the village had its own poet.
This was a Mr.Richard Furness who was actually a schoolmaster at Dore but who had a substantial connection with the village in the form of his brother Mr.Peter Furness who lived in the village at Bank House which still stands today.
Prior to his death in 1857 Richard Furness achieved some measure of renown for his writing and in particular regularly took events in Stoney Middleton as his subject matter.
His inspiration ranged over wide periods of village history. Examples include:
On dwellings built by village miners:
“The industrious miner built his neat abode
Fast by the margin of the headlong flood;
In pleasing solitude the cottage stood;
Low were its walls and nicely trimmed the roof
With heathy turf and straw made water proof”.
And – referring to the ubiquitous Scottish Pedlar:
“For now the Scotchman issued from the cave
Of Caelswark dark, his sepulchre and grave,
Throat cut and gory, gaping, ghastly corse
Which passed him dangling on the murderer’s horse.”
Wonderful stuff this suggesting that, had he lived in a different century, Mr.Furness could have made an excellent living writing scripts for Hammer Horror Films.
And finally on Stoney Middleton itself:
“Or has no gently breathing gale
Borne thee the music from the dale
Of famous Stoney Middle-town
Right famous for the Mon-i-the Moon”
Moving on from this hopefully entertaining interlude we now find we are approaching the Twentieth Century and it is worth pausing a moment to summarise the state of the village as it stands on the threshold.
Overall, we have a picture very much based on the “cottage industry” principle mentioned earlier with small numbers of individuals working in a variety of industries supplemented by a considerable degree of agricultural self-sufficiency.
One particular point that became clear in researching this book was the extent to which village residents combined occupations – not only farmers also doubling up as butchers which one might expect but also people engaged in both mining and farming – and the regular occurrence of folk from a variety of occupations also functioning as landlords of the numerous public houses serving the village at the time.
The changes which impacted massively on the country in general, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, must have also affected Stoney Middleton but, on the whole, it seems to be fair comment to say the village had come through whatever tests it had faced in good shape, with a strong sense of community still present and a deserved reputation as a “working village” which was also to endure in the century to come.
Tests were to follow, not least in the form of two World Wars and a digitalised technological revolution towards the end of the Twentieth Century, which would, in many ways, change people’s lives even more than had the Industrial Revolution, but at least Stoney was in a strong and healthy state to withstand whatever the next hundred years or so had to offer.
Mention has already been made of the Romans introducing lead mining and this industry continued to operate in and around the village throughout the centuries that followed, albeit waxing and waning in popularity and profitability.
However, the early 17th century saw a most definite waxing with lead becoming only second to wool as the most sought after substance in the country. It had become the substance for the construction of roofs, piping, pewter dishes and was particularly useful for securing stained glass in church windows.
A fascinating booklet that has been loaned to me called: “Long Ago in Peakland” written in 1948 by a Mr. M .Andrews M.B.E. gives some excellent background to the history of lead mining.
It would appear that for many centuries Derbyshire Lead Mining was often a family affair with fathers laying claim to an area to be mined and the working of the mine being carried out by sons.
In many ways it seems to have functioned a little like the Gold Rush in America albeit with a substantially larger number of rules. These amounted to a Code of Laws going back to time immemorial in practice but ratified as early as 1248.
Mine “ownership” was actually quite a complex issue. In most of the country ultimate ownership of mining land rested with the Duchy of Lancaster with a percentage of revenue always being due to the Duchy; in the Peak District, however, a great deal of land was owned by the Manners and Cavendish families who controlled some mines directly and sometimes allowed companies and individuals to mine, subject to taking a “tithe” on the proceeds generated.
Anyone could lay a claim to a plot (or “liberty” as they were officially called) where he felt a decent lead vein was present and the procedure apparently was to pace a small wooden cross known as a “stotter” at the site at which point a Mining Officer would mark out a distance of 29 yards and the “miner” could then make a start subject to the approval of the local Barmaster.
The Barmaster was a representative of the Lord of the Manor originally and clearly exercised an enormous amount of power with the decisions of a Barmaster’s court taking precedence where relevant over those of civil and coroners’ courts.
Primarily they presided over Bar moots which were courts dealing mainly with disputes between miners.
For example, if one individual having duly placed his ‘Stotter’ did not then begin work fairly quickly then another applicant could ask to “nick in”- a procedure that involved the Barmaster in taking no less than 24 jurors to the place in question, cutting a nick in the cross and then informing the owner that he would do this three times after which, if no work had started, ownership was transferred to the new applicant.
In practice one can imagine the potential for disputes in all of this and no doubt ‘stotters’ in potentially rich plots were given to mysteriously vanishing from time to time and “nicks” appearing that may or may not have originated from official sources.
No less a personage than literary luminary Daniel Defoe wrote that miners quarrels; “may be called the greatest of all the Wonders of the Peak, for they are of a strange, turbulent and quarrelsome temperament and very hard to be reconciled to one another in their subterranean affairs.”
In support of this view it appears that in 1796 an attempt was made to recruit Derbyshire miners from around the district to join a militia to fight Napoleon Bonaparte. Given the hazardous nature of mining a case could be made that soldiering was not such a bad option but the miners clearly saw things differently – a large number of miners descended on Bakewell where the Justices were sitting, made a bonfire out of the Militia Papers and generally, “made a great disturbance, armed with clubs, picks and spades.”
A Barmaster’s court must, therefore, have been a lively place and Thomas Cowen tells us that they were still operating in his time with a small Barmote Court held at either at the Moon Inn or the Bulls Head, Foolow sitting within 1 month of the 25th March of each year.
A Grand Jury of 48 (which “the miners, owners and maintainers of mines may summon 24”) presided over disputes by now following the dictates of the Derbyshire Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Act 1852.
At this point in history, therefore, the picture of lead mining in and around Stoney Middleton seems to be of a number of relatively small operators rather than the large conglomerates we would be likely to associate with mining in the modern era. Mr.Cowen tells us that the main mines being worked in the area at his time were Deep Rake, Salad Hole (this is the name Thomas Cowen uses in his book – elsewhere I have found the same place referred to as Sallet Hole) Blagden Gin, White Coe, Little Pastures and Wren Park; charming names for what was ultimately a far from charming undertaking and sadly I cannot provide any information as to how these titles came about.
Other, equally eccentric earlier names included Brandy Bottle and Cackle Mackle.
It is also possible that this, “cottage industry” aspect of mining may well have contributed to people remaining in the village rather than heading for work in the towns and cities.
Of the people who carried out this work we can again turn to Defoe who described an old time miner as wearing a suit and gloves of leather, a brimless cap and carrying a basket containing a selection of tools all of which had names incomprehensible to non-miners.
Moreover, “for his person he was as lean as a skeleton, pale as a dead corpse, his hair and beard a deep black, his flesh lank, and as we thought something of the colour of lead itself”. The miner resembled, “an inhabitant of the dark regions below, who had just ascended into the world of light.”
As to the work itself the miners sometimes used a limestone cave or natural fissure to reach lead ore but more usually sank long shafts going deeper and deeper in pursuit of a viable vein. On occasions, this involved going as much as six hundred feet underground.
Frequent problems were extremely foul air and water from underground streams; to deal with this latter problem a “sough” was driven to carry off the water and, in fact, the stream that runs through the village arises almost entirely from springs in old soughs, the largest rising been Moorwood Sough near the Church which apparently originated in the late 1700s.
These problems overcome the miners would then commence the arduous business of getting the lead ore up to the surface.
Once out of the ground the lead ore, called galena, had to be cleaned and broken up ready to be smelted in a furnace in order to extract the metal. This involved breaking the ore up with heavy hammers on a “knock stone” and then placing it in a wooden sieve and rinsing it in a large tub: the ore falling through, leaving behind the lighter residue which was skimmed off and thrown out and taken to the “buddle” where it was again rinsed by a small stream of water, the lead falling to the bottom. What was carried down by the current was washed once more in the same manner. The deposit, almost as fine as flour, was called ‘belland’.
To emphasise the “cottage industry” aspect it should be stressed that the beating and rinsing was usually carried out by the female members of a mining family who regularly, “worked nine hours a day for seven pence” according to Mr.Andrews.
This was probably more dangerous than the actual mining as the fumes released were very poisonous.
At this point the Barmaster would again make an appearance on behalf of the Lord of the Manor taking a tithe due to said Lord which varied between from one tenth to a twenty-fifth
Until this had occurred it was forbidden for any lead to be sold.
The appetites of the wealthy and privileged having been duly satisfied the next part of the process was the smelting of the lead.
Originally smelting took place on hilltops facing into the prevailing westerly winds which provided the draught for the fire. It involved building what was essentially a large bonfire on top of the hill, using alternating layers of wood and ore. It worked because lead has a relatively low melting point but it was very inefficient and used large quantities of wood.
Smelting usually took place in the spring when several days of strong wind could be relied upon. Ore and fuel was stockpiled and the process would last until the wind died down or the supplies of timber and ore were exhausted. As the lead melted, it was collected at the base of the fire and channelled into moulds called pigs.
These hilltop hearths were known as boles and their sites live on in the place-name Bole Hill. Boles had become obsolete by the end of the 16th century because of a new technological development, the ore hearth.
The ore hearth was similar to a blacksmith’s forge but here the draught was provided by bellows powered by a waterwheel. The smelting sites therefore transferred from the hilltops to the river valleys. These hearths were much more efficient. (They were about 55% efficient.) In fact it became economic to reprocess the slag which had been produced by the boles, and recover more lead as well as smelting new ore.
Hearths still relied on wood as fuel, but it was now specially prepared for the purpose and was known as white coal. The timber was chopped up into small chips and dried over a fire before use. White coal was produced in woodlands which were specially managed for the purpose.
The final technological development was the cupola or reverberatory furnace. The reverberatory furnace was first introduced into Derbyshire by the London Lead Company in the mid 1730’s.
This method of smelting required the mixture to be constantly stirred by the smelters, who consequently worked in an atmosphere of poisonous fumes. A man employed as a lead smelter usually had a relatively short life.
In 1747 the Quakers from Wales introduced cupolas for smelting lead in Derbyshire. Two of these were to be found in Stoney Middleton. One owned by the Duke of Devonshire found work for poor miners, and the other belonged to John Barker, Esq. which were situated in Middleton Dale. In the latter half of the 18th century, the existing smelt mill at Barbrook was modernised by the erection of a cupola, as was the communal Lord’s smelt mill in Middleton Dale. A second cupola, Storrs Cupola, was built at Stoney Middleton around 1777.
Three mine-owning brothers from Middleton also built a cupola below Eden Tree at Bradwell. Of three others at Bradwell, that known as the Slag Works, at the bottom of the Dale, was the site of a tragedy in 1854 when sulphurous fumes caused the deaths of two workmen and two young men who had gone to their rescue. Dilapidated remains of the 360ft arched flue of the Slag Works can still be traced running parallel to the road.
Under the rounded dome of a cupola, ore and fuel (generally coal) were kept separate and a strong draught – provided by means of a flue and tall chimney – caused the flames to reverberate from the roof and hearth, blasting them over the ore and so melting the lead. The liquid metal ran into a pot and the slag was raked out. Not only was the cupola far more efficient than the bole but its design meant that poisonous vapours were cooled and condensed in the flue as they were drawn towards the chimney
I believe the above picture is the cupola situated at the site at Stoney Middleton and also below is included a charming drawing of a “Smelting House in Middleton Dale” reproduced from Mr.Andrew’s publication.
[NB.DO WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO THIS?]
References to “sulphurous fumes” and “poisonous vapours” should remind a modern reader of the environmental issues surrounding lead mining and there is no doubt that this was an industry highly health – adverse both to those who took a direct part in it and to those, such as local farmers, who lived close to it.
Open smelting (which many continued to utilise even after the introduction of cupolas) used to leave the surrounding land so toxic that it could never be grazed again. As recently as 1966 a number of cows died from lead poisoning due to seepage and disturbance of old slag heaps at a farm at Hope.
Likewise, Mr Andrews tells us: “the smoke of the lead produced palsies consumptions, quinses and a disorder of the internals called, The Belland. Cattle feeding on grass near the Smelting were also affected with the latter ailment, and it was said that the herbage acquired a sweet taste which made the animals eat greedily.”
‘Palsies’ and ‘quinses’ seem almost quaint sounding ailments to a modern reader but there is no doubt that this was a serious concern at the time with the ubiquitous Barmaster’s duties also including the resolution of disputes between miners and irate farmers.
It is worth stressing that the mining rights referred to above, once granted, overrode any rights of tenancy held by farmers – as stated, the Barmote courts were doubtless lively places!
In the end all of these problems were solved by the decline of the industry.
Different authorities give slightly differing accounts of exactly when and how quickly lead mining went into decline both in the UK generally and Derbyshire in particular but there seems to be a broad consensus that the industry was well on its way downhill by the beginning of the Twentieth Century and the majority of large mines had closed by 1940*.
That said the recollections of people such as Brian Burkenshaw, in the chapters relating to the Twentieth Century, who worked in the industry as an electrician all his life indicate that pockets of on – going or revived workings continued for some time after that date.
One fascinating aspect of all of this is that, certainly according to Brian who has been down there enough, lead mining has left a vast network of tunnels and passageways underneath areas like Stoney Middleton and Eyam which already had more than their share of natural underground caverns and chambers.
Wandering around now there would, I suspect be a remarkable if somewhat claustrophobic experience – albeit not one for the faint-hearted!
Incidentally if you do find the prospect intimidating imagine what it must have been like to go down underground every working day – Brian told me: “you just did it”, well, no doubt, someone appreciated what he and so many others, “just did” but I suspect far too many did not.
*[In looking into lead mining in Derbyshire I discovered that it has a long and, for those interested in such things, fascinating history which would easily merit a book in itself – which is no doubt why people have written them. It is not for me to make any specific recommendation but typing “Lead Mining in Derbyshire” into your Internet Search Engine will yield a number of results. My own poor efforts can provide no more than a brief summary of the subject.]
Finally, on Lead Mining like many of the industries listed below it does seem to summarise a classic dilemma; from the information already given it will be abundantly clear that lead mining made a hell of a mess whilst simultaneously providing employment which was necessary in itself but also arguably provided some of the cement that has kept Stoney Middleton together as a viable working village.
Mineral extraction – Fluorspar
The veins where galena was found contained other minerals as well. Until the beginning of the 20th century, miners used to throw away the other gangue (or waste) minerals onto spoil heaps. It was then discovered that one of these minerals, fluorspar (Calcium Fluoride) was important in steel making and so the old spoil heaps and lead workings were re-examined.
There are now many uses for fluorspar. It is used in a variety of processes including refrigerants, solvents, aerosol propellants, anaesthetics. It can also be found in your ‘fluoride’ toothpaste.
The major company involved in mining and processing fluorspar is Laportes at the Cavendish Mill plant in Stoney Middleton.
In 1959 there was a large expansion in demand for fluorspar. There was no room to develop further within the village, so a new plant was built at Farnsley Lane and named Cavendish Mill when opened by the Duke of Devonshire in 1965. This remains the largest high grade fluorspar producer in the country and accounts for virtually all of the UK supply.
Processing fluorspar involves crushing the ore finely and separating out the minerals.
Several electric narrow gauge railways are recorded as being operated in Stoney Middleton by Laporte Industries Ltd up to 1987 for the mining of fluorite.
Barytes (Barium sulphate Ba SO4)
Heavy spar or “caulk”, as the lead miners called it, certainly does feel heavy if you hold a specimen. It is reclaimed from lead mine waste and now it has so many uses that modern underground mining for barytes continues.
Barytes is able to absorb radiation so it is now valued as a radiation shield in nuclear power stations. It is also used in hospitals for X-rays of the stomach and intestines. The patient drinks a “barium meal” of barium sulphate. The X-ray then shows up the flesh against the opaque background of the barium and any abnormal growths can be seen.
Large quantities of barytes are mixed with clay to make “drilling mud” in the North Sea oil industry. Because the powdered barytes is soft and heavy it lubricates the drills and causes the lighter rock particles to rise above it towards the surface.
Other uses include acting as filler in the manufacture of glossy paper, and card like playing cards. It goes into foam, rubber products and plastics and paints such as rust resistant primers and undercoats.
Barytes were extracted on a site at Stoney Middleton originally known as the Paint Mill (subsequently renamed Rock Mill-a title which still survives in the Rock Mill Business Park now operating on the same site) which used a water wheel for power to drive the wheels to grind the stone. Once extracted it was transported to various locations including Manchester and Liverpool for shipping abroad.
The process involved the “caulk” being washed and put through a screen and a “Jig” which separated the galena (lead ore, lead sulphide) and fluorspar from the baraytes. The lead was then transported to a foundry at Darley Dale, the fluorspar to steel works in Sheffield and the barytes were processed at Rock Mill.
This stage required the placing of the barytes over a fire on steel sheets and the material then spread out and turned every half an hour with a long rake until it was dry. It was then taken from the drying place by wheelbarrow to be placed in a hopper which filled individual small buckets moving along a conveyor belt before been finally emptied onto large millstones. As the barytes fell into a hole in the middle of a top stone another stone underneath this rotated with it, grinding the barytes into a fine powder. This then dropped through a bottom hole into another hopper where it was later bagged after it had cooled down.
Attached to the mill was a large storage shed and yard which contained large stockpiles of gravel to keep the mill running and in which the bags were also stored until the time came for their transportation.
In later years when Rock Mill became too old to function, barytes processing was transferred to Cavendish Mill (see above).
[NB. COLIN I MUST ADMIT THAT I BECAME A BIT CONFUSED AT THIS POINT.YOUR HERITAGE CENTRE WEBSITE SAYS “Local residents have recalled this work being undertaken as recently as the early 1900’s”.BUT THE SMILE BOOKLET JILL LENT ME SEEMS TO IMPLY THE INDUSTRY GOING ON WELL INTO THE 20TH CENTURY-IF NOT TO THE PRESENT DAY.CAN YOU CLARIFY?AND EXACTLY HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE BARYTES ANYWAY?]
Quarrying and Lime production.
The process of lime burning has a long history in the White Peak, where the necessary raw material, limestone, occurs in great abundance. The end product, lime or quicklime, has many applications; it was used in plaster work by the Egyptians about four thousand years ago, whilst the Greeks and Romans used lime in making cement and mortar. This latter use was recognised in a Roman bath which came to light at Buxton many years ago. For hundreds of years lime has been of enormous importance in agriculture, where it is used to improve sour soils.
With the expansion of the demand for limestone, which took up a lot of the slack left by the demise of lead mining, it was necessary to quarry within the Middleton Dale itself. This quarrying is still an industry today.
In the 19th century there were numerous small quarries extracting limestone in Middleton Dale. Each had its own lime kiln.
Constructed of stone, a kiln was fuelled with wood, peat and furze and filled from the top with alternate layers of fuel and broken limestone. The kiln was lit through an opening at its base, starting the burning process which reduces stone to lime. After a burning period of five to ten days, followed by a couple of days’ cooling, lime was drawn out from the bottom of the kiln.
From the late 18th century Stoney Middleton had a deserved reputation as an unhealthy place, lying as it did under a constant pall of acrid smoke from large-scale lime burning activities. Apparently it was common for the dust from the limekiln to be seen shimmering in the sunlight and in summer it “painted” all the trees in the Dale grey.
Villagers would actually purchase small lumps of lime from the kiln for the sum of two old pence which was then thrown into a bucket of water to slake before been used for whitewashing walls.
The smell produced was fresh and clean but it was said to be wise to step well back when the lime was been slaked has it spat and bubbled in the bucket.
The working process involved limestone been tipped into the top of kilns to be burnt and horse drawn wagons were then used to cart the resultant quick lime away.
Cart-loads of coal were brought in from Sheffield and Chesterfield, returning with processed lime.
In particular, in1869 a gentleman named Henry Goddard founded Goddard’s Quarry and for a time over twenty local men worked in the quarry producing burnt lime which served the steel industry, agriculture and was also used for lime washing, the forerunner of decorating emulsion.
Ownership passed through the family line eventually falling to Henry’s grandchildren George and John (Jack) and in 1960 (after Jack’s death and George’s retirement) local control ceased and passed to a series of companies including current operators, RMC (Roadstone).
By the 1920s there were about a dozen quarries in the Dale and Eyam area with the lime kilns no longer in use.
The modern quarries have destroyed most of the lime kilns, leaving just two partial kilns. One of the quarries was bombed by two ME 110 during WWII, both of which were later shot down
Quarrying continues and limestone is still essential for all kinds of industrial purposes. Work practices have become much safer, machinery has got bigger and, most significantly for the Peak, the industry is much less labour intensive so the number of people employed has significantly decreased.
The boom towns have reverted to villages but the industry continues. Stoney Middleton has a number of quarries two of which are in their final days.
In the interests of providing a complete picture it must be recognised that quarrying, like most of the ore extraction industries, is not without its negative consequences.
There remains an on-going debate in not only Stoney Middleton and Derbyshire but in many parts of the UK between those who point to the importance of bringing employment to areas where this might otherwise be absent and those to whom quarrying and related industries simply represent a blot on the landscape and a source of pollution.
It is not a remit of this book to take part in that debate but once we move into the twentieth century we shall see evidence of what can go wrong when slurry dams and “lagoons” resulting from quarrying and located above the village burst their boundaries and their contents descend upon the village.
Not only do candles have a long history as domestic lighting, but here in the Peak they had extra importance as an essential to the lead mining industry. So it is not surprising that many mining villages had a chandler’s workshop. For example, Thomas Cowen tells us that at the time of his writing, “the Tallow press used by Chandler Goddard of the Bank, may still be seen at the Smithy” and a Mr.Thomas Furness was a Chandler in 1857.
Knowledge of candle making developed from the earliest known lamps, which consisted of a fibrous wick of some sort, stuck into grease or oil which rose up the wick as fast as it burned away. The early Phoenicians are thought to have progressed into making solid candles by running a thread of yarn through beeswax. The tallow candle is probably Roman in origin and utilised the harder types of animal fat, although a few species of trees were found to yield vegetable tallow.
Until late medieval times, simple domestic lighting was provided by rushlights, made in the home by soaking the pith of a rush in melted household grease and leaving it to set. Rushlights were the forerunners of tallow dips – basic candles made by dipping a wick into a tank of melted tallow, drawing it out to set, then dipping and cooling again until it was thickened to size. A simple dipping frame allowed several to be made at once. Metal moulds were also used in the home, turning out perhaps half a dozen candles at a time, tapered for easy removal. A thread was run through the centre of each hollow cylinder before the melted wax was poured in from the broader end. Once hardened, the candles were simply tapped free.
Beeswax produced excellent candles but most people knew only the cheaper tallow variety. A combination of mutton and beef fat gave the best quality tallow; plain beef fat was second best and pig fat was cheapest of all, but gave off an unpleasant smoke. In the latter half of the 18th century a new fuel, spermaceti, became readily available. Obtained from the head of the sperm whale, this white waxy substance was also used as a base for ointments. In candle manufacture it was sometimes scented with plant oils, offering a pleasant alternative to smoky and smelly oil-lamps.
Derbyshire was the source of the world’s first paraffin wax candles. In 1847, the brilliant scientist Sir Lyon Playfair identified the presence of petroleum oil in a Riddings coal pit. The discovery led to the establishment of the country’s first oil refinery, but the enterprise seemed threatened when the condition of the oil changed. Playfair was consulted and recognised the presence of paraffin in the oil. This he extracted to produce two wax candles, used to illuminate one of his own lectures at the Royal Institution.
Paraffin wax candles came into wide use, often containing stearine as a stiffening agent. Meanwhile, the use of tallow continued for quite some time, especially in mining villages such as Stoney Middleton.
Besom is pronounced “beezum”. The word isn’t used very much now but everybody knows what a besom looks like – a witch’s broomstick. It is a simple brush, made by tying a bundle of twigs round a wooden shaft. You do not use them like ordinary brushes but swing them sideways across the ground. When they get “clarted up” the dirt needs knocking out and the besom left upside-down to dry.
Besom making was one of the Gypsy trades. A bundle of long heather was packed in the centre with smaller twigs to provide a firm bed for the shaft. The whole bundle was bound tightly with cane then the shaft was driven in. It was held firm by a strong nail. The head was trimmed with an axe and the job was done. A skilled worker could make a besom in about five minutes.
Maids and housewives swished their besoms across stone floors, back yards and paths. Farmers sometimes bought a dozen at a time for brushing yards, cleaning out stables, cow sheds and Sayers styes.
At Stoney Middleton, Daniel Jackson was listed as a besom maker in 1895, presumably of Messrs’ Jackson and Johnson who worked in the chamber over the smithy. E. Jackson was still in business in 1904.
The smithy was apparently shared by more than one manufacturer since in 1901, when one former besom workshop had already been converted into a cottage, William Jupp’s old besom making room was being used for storage by Cookers Cockers, shoe makers. The enclosed yard was still called the Besom Shop Yard.
Weaving was of course one of the key industries of The Industrial Revolution.
.In Stoney Middleton it took the form of silk weaving with a group of Macclesfield Silk Weavers introducing the industry in 1837 and a weaving shed was built on the Paint Mill site with one loom still operative in 1910.
Primarily, however, it seems to have been literally a “cottage” industry with several cottages possessing both looms and spinning wheels – a model of small scale production which co-existed with large scale woollen and cotton mills at that time and which appears to have characterised much of what was done in the village during this period.
In addition, there was a loom in Hancock’s butcher’s shop for many years – an example of another common factor whereby different industries often shared the same premises.
Flour Milling and Malting
An industry going back a very long way with Thomas Cowen again informing us that the earliest recorded Miller was Mr Torre in 1665. If this name sounds familiar it is because Mr Torre was the father of Rowland Torre whose tragic tale was recounted earlier.
Water collected at Mill Dam and a Corn Mill erected with the flow of water regulated by a sluice also utilised in turning a water wheel which in turn set in motion the machinery for grinding grain.
Subsequently, families by the name of Hinch and Booth took over the mill and the industry flourished for many years before eventually passing into disuse.
Whilst it prospered it dealt with large quantities of grain which were stored in sacks in the rooms of the Malthouse on the Bank and it is believed that the then village Smithy also did service as a Malthouse.
For modern visitors to the village wishing to view the general area should follow the Brook that runs through the village from the Old Toll House (now chip shop) down an impressive waterfall and the disappears underground to reappear flowing under the bridge in the Nook before yet again vanishing underground near the church gates.
Footwear production was particularly associated with Eyam and Stoney Middleton.
What began as a cottage industry grew into thriving concerns, employing relatives and neighbours working with simple machinery. Production expanded into disused textile factories and purpose-built premises. The majority of employees were women on piecework; women outworkers at Bradwell and Hathersage took in work from the Eyam factories, machining uppers in their homes. Heavy cutting work on the factory floor was carried out by men, originally by hand with a sharp knife. Later on, sole and heel pieces were stamped out by heavy machinery which invariably claimed at least one finger or thumb from every operator, the price of cutting a dozen pieces of leather per minute. Lads as young as 13,often recruited from local Poor Houses spent long monotonous hours inking boot edges – up to 1,000 pairs a day for four shillings (20p) a week.
Girls and women machined the five or six sections of uppers together, often working by the light of candles which they had to pay for themselves. Women grew round-shouldered and developed poor eyesight, while severe breathing problems affected men involved in the final buffing and scouring of leather and brass rivets, when the air was thick with particles of sandpaper, leather and fine brass. Some factories produced ankle strap and bar shoes, others specialised in heavy nailed boots.
Part of the reason for the usage of candle power was of course that at this point in history electricity was not available and, indeed, only arrived in the village in 1933.The earliest source of power in fact was steam (again one of the main driving forces of the Industrial Revolution), thought to be probably first used by the Higginbottom Brothers.to be followed by Paraffin engines-the first of these been introduced by Lennons in 1912.
In terms of chronology the first recorded evidence of a boot factory in Stoney Middleton was in 1797 at a location called Pine View.
By 1830 Eyam had nine boot/shoemakers and the Stoney Middleton six, plus one saddler.
Moving forward to 1881 and the boot making industry has become the second largest employer in the village employing 17 village inhabitants directly in addition to the “out-sourcing” mentioned above.
Records show a large number of individual, albeit small scale, producers as follows:-
Ezra Cocker- On the Fold in what is now Beth Ely’s garage and in the building opposite
Benjamin Hallam and Archilaus Hancock—In various cottages on a small scale basis
Harry and Matthew Higginbottom—High Street
Luther Higinbotham and Father Joseph—-Craigstead(a small factory located below the village school
John and Frank Nugent …Next to Veranda Cottage(now demolished),Town End on the main road below the Moon Inn Car Park.
James Goddard—Top Storey of the Malthouse on the Bank
Mason Brothers and Lennon.—–Cottage at top of Dale Mouth.
Mycock and Hinch—-Dale Bottom(both having previously worked for James Goddard)
George Mycock—-A factory which is now the Old Studio.
Eyam and Stoney Middleton factories were featured in The Shoe and Leather Record of 14 October 1898.
By 1910 the two villages shared several wholesale boot, shoe and slipper manufacturers. Stoney Middleton concentrated largely on men’s working boots, including army boots during the First World War. Most of the Stoney Middleton firms gradually bowed to big business until only one remained, William Lennon & Company Ltd. This family firm remains in business to this day, the last specialist manufacturer of safety footwear in Britain, the Ruff-Lander brand with its rhinoceros logo continues to uphold the name of the last safety boot factory