Companion into Derbyshire 1948

In 1948 Ethel Carlton Williams visited Derbyshire to undertake research for her book companion into Derbyshire. Chapter four – Padley, Stoney Middleton and Eyam follows or it can be viewed in its original format

Companion into Derbyshire by Ethel Carlton Williams


CHAPTER FOUR: Padley and Stoney Middleton

The Eyres of Padley: The tragedy of Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam: A walk down Middleton Dale: Eyam and the Plague: Cucklett Dell

From the Surprise, a path runs through Padley Wood to Grindleford station. Grindleford, once a quiet, rather dull village, is now a dormitory for Sheffield business men. Rows of new houses prove its growing popularity and the only fragment of the past is Padley chapel.

Modern progress has encroached even here, for the Midland railway runs close to the chapel, and goods wagons are constantly shunting beside the ancient walls. The chapel and a few foundations are all that remain of Upper Padley Manor House, which early in the fifteenth century passed into the possession of the Eyres, by the marriage of Robert Eyre with Joan Padley. How real they seem to us, Joan in her tight, fur-trimmed gown and Robert in plate armour, from their brass in Hathersage church.

It was close to the Derwent, on the site of a smaller house, that Robert and Joan built a large manor house, suited to the needs of their ever-increasing family. It must have seemed an ideal spot, screened from the cold winds by thick woods, and within an eight miles’ ride of the prosperous town of Sheffield. The chapel, which was attached to the Manor House, has recently been restored, and every year in July a pilgrimage is made to Padley in honour of Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam, two priests captured there in 1583. The gable at the east end of the chapel was the manorial dovecote, but the nesting boxes are now blocked up.

Many generations of Eyres lived at Padley. There was Joan and Robert’s eldest son, Robert, who married Elizabeth Fitzwilliam, and their grandson Robert and his son Arthur. The latter was married three times, but so heavy was infant mortality in Tudor times, that from his numerous offspring, he only left one child, a daughter, Anne. She was a great heiress and had many suitors, but, as so often happens, she married the heir to great estates, Thomas Fitzherbert. While Anne inherited Padley, Thomas came into the possession of Norbury on the death of his parents.

Anne and her husband, who remained true to the old faith, lived happily at Padley, until Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, when suspicion fell upon them. It was a time of deep perplexity, when the eye of every man was turned upon his neighbour. The fear of Spain was like a raging flame in the hearts of Englishmen; the cruel deeds of Mary’s reign were fresh in their memory; and, as history has shown again and again, fear breeds cruelty.

A straw showed the way the wind was blowing. Before the new reign was three years old, Thomas Fitzherbert was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison. There he remained for thirty years, with brief intervals on bail, until he died in the Tower in 1591. Padley and his other estates were placed in the hands of his younger brother John, who lived at Padley, hearing Mass and giving shelter to priests, when the hue and cry seemed dangerously near.

Upper Padley Manor was an ideal spot for such a purpose. It commanded a Wide view of the country round, and with Its belt of woods and hiding places, offered many means of escape. There was only one drawback. A keen supporter of the government, George, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, was a near neighbour at Sheffield Manor. By his orders on January 29, 1588, a search was made at Padley for dangerous recusants, amongst whom was numbered John Fitzherbert, but he could not be found.

That summer excitement ran fever high in England. In Spain the Great Armada was known to be preparing; spy panic was rife, and where, it was argued, were spies more likely to be found than in households loyal to the Pope. Shrewsbury, as Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, took his duties very seriously. In spite of ill health, he paid a visit in person, with a band of attendants, at dawn on July 21, 1588. The surprise was complete. When the Earl hammered on the door, the household were sound asleep. No presentiment of danger warned them. Within the walls of the Manor House were not only John Fitzherbert but two Roman Catholic priests. All three were captured and re- moved to Derby.

From the first the priests were doomed. Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam were Englishmen ordained at Rheims, who had returned in defiance of the law, to preach in England. The barbarous penalty of the age was inflicted upon them. They were hanged, drawn and quartered on Saint Mary’s Bridge, Derby.

John Fitzherbert’s life was spared, owing, it was rumoured, to a bribe of £10,000, offered by his son-in-law, Thomas Eyre, to the judges, but he remained in prison. His was a living death. In August, 1590, he was taken to London, and died two months later, just eleven months before death came to set free his elder brother Thomas.

John’s eldest son, Thomas, is the villain of the piece. He was under the influence of Richard Topcliffe, the Queen’s Pursuivant, and with his zeal for Protestantism, mingled a keen desire to see his uncle and father dispossessed, so that the Padley estate might become his own. His hopes were doomed to disappointment. Shrewsbury himself took misgivings, for on September 15, 1589, he wrote to Walsingham to ask if the Council approved of this action.

All through the summer and autumn of 1589, the matter was in dispute, and finally Padley was restored for a time to the Fitzherberts, But on Sir Thomas’ death, two years later, the struggle for possession between nephew Thomas and Topcliffe was renewed, and after much litigation, Queen Elizabeth intervened and granted the Manor to Topcliffe. He held it until 1603, when Thomas’ younger brother, Anthony, regained the property. The great days of Padley Manor were over. After 1650, owing to the heavy recusancy fines and losses incurred as Royalists in the Civil War, the house was dismantled, much of the stone being used to build the farmhouse, which stands near the site.

Excavations have revealed the plan of the old Manor House. It was built in the form of a parallelogram, with a great hall. The chapel, on the south side of the courtyard, is a two-storied building, with three entrances. One, at the east end, for the family and their guests; another for the servants and the third, on the north side was a private door for the priest, which connected with his rooms in the Manor. An unusual feature is the great buttresses on either side of the chapel, disguised by the architect as chimneys, into which he built hiding places for priests. The roof of the chapel has carved hammer beams, and at the east end, angels are holding shields.

The chapel fell on evil days. It was used as a barn by the farmer, and later was put to still baser uses and became a cowshed. In January, 1932, it was bought by Monsignor Payne, rector of St. Mary’s Derby, with funds collected in all parts of the country, and was restored and re-consecrated. On July 13, 1933, after an interval of 345 years, High Mass was again celebrated in Padley Chapel. What must have been the feelings of those present? All thoughts must have turned to the last time Mass was said in Padley. The congregation, in their Elizabethan ruffs and stiff brocades; the dim light, for even a flicker might betray their secret; John Fitzherbert and his wife, with their children, Anthony and his two sisters; the gleam of the candles on the altar and the low voice of the priest. It may have been Nicholas Garlick, the former Tideswell schoolmaster, or Robert Ludlam, saying Mass for the last time. Over everyone in the congregation hung a feeling of tension; they knelt with ears alert for the sound of a hurrying footstep or the hoof of a galloping horse.

Yet, as we have seen, when disaster did come, the household were not at Mass, but asleep in their beds. Then, in the dead of night, came Shrewsbury, furious and infirm, tortured by gout, but veiling his infirmity beneath a mask of rage. John Fitzherbert and his children were dragged from their beds, and hurried away to gaol, and the search went on, until at length the priests were discovered in the secret hiding place in the chimney.

Modern stained glass windows in the chapel tell the drama of the priests. They show the scene of their arrest, and their cruel death at Derby. Nicholas Garlick is mounting the scaffold to encourage a fellow-victim, Richard Sympson. The original stone altar, lost for many years, was discovered in August 1933, in the ruins of the Manor House, and was re-consecrated and restored to its former place. One of the windows shows it being discovered; a sexton and a man in spectacles are digging it up, while a priest stands by.

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