The History and Antiquities of Eyam

By William Wood (1842)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2012


There appears to have been but very few families of wealth at Eyam in times of yore. The Staffords were by far the most conspicuous and wealthy. Nothing, however, is known of their lineage; they were exceeding rich, and of great import in the village and neighbourhood. Humphrey, the last male heir of this family, died at Eyam, where they had invariably resided, somewhere about the year A.D. 1580. His immense property was valued at the time of his death, at £400,000, which was equally divided amongst his four daughters. Catherine, the eldest, married Rowland Morewood, of the Oaks, near Bradfield, Yorkshire: she was buried at Bradfield, July 16th, 1595. Gertrude married Rowland Eyre, Esq., Hassop, an ancestor of the present Earl Newburgh: her burial, at Longstone, in A.D. 1624, is recorded on a brass plate in the Church. Ann married Francis Bradshaw, of Bradshaw, near Chapel-en-le-Frith; and the other remaining daughter was, I imagine, never married, but was known as Madame Stafford. Francis Bradshaw had the family mansion of the Staffords included in his wife's share of her father's property, where he and his descendants resided until the plague broke out in Eyam. The house was very capacious and antique; it stood at the west end of Eyam, and a large field, now called the Orchard, and another, the Hall-yard, were its appendages. The fish-pan belonging to this very old mansion was destroyed not many years ago. The last Bradshaw who resided at Eyam, was erecting on the site of the old dwelling, what is now known as the Old Hall, at the very time the plague commenced, when he and his family fled to Brampton, in Yorkshire, and never returned. The new mansion, which was rather elegant, was never finished; three or four families have, however, resided in it some time back, but it is now converted into a barn. On the south front, there is a circular stone containing the crest of the arms of the Bradshaw: a Hart on a wreath standing under a vine. The other part of the arms of this family is, two bendlets between two martlets.[1] That portion of the Eyam estate belonging to the Bradshaws remained in their family until the death of George Bradshaw, of Bradshaw, the last male heir of the elder branch of the Bradshaws; he left no issue, and his whole property was inherited by his sister Elizabeth, who married Joshua Galliard, Esq., of Edmonton, in Middlesex, by whom she had two sons, Peirce and John; the latter of whom died young. Peirce had a son, Bradshaw Galliard, a poet, and two daughters, Anne and Mary. Anne married Eaglesfield Smith, of Longshaw, Dumfries, Scotland; Mary married Charles Bowles, of Ratcliff, Middlesex, between whom, at the death of Bradshaw Galliard, the whole property of the Bradshaws, was divided. Eaglesfield Smith inherited the Eyam estate. The Morewood property at Eyam was sold in small lots about forty years since.

The Colyns were a family of distinction at Eyam in the reign of Henry the Sixth; but of their descendants and property nothing is now known.

French was the name of another rather important family in the village. A notice of this family is in the Register as follows: "Stephen, the son of Stephen French, baptized Dec. 4th, 1643". The name occurs also amongst those who died of the plague. The Brays were a family of some note at Eyam; the Register has the following record:- "Mr. Bray buried 1640". The Wilsons of Eyam were once a family of substance; in Glover's History of Derbyshire there is this notice: "Richard Milnes, Chesterfield, married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of the Rev. R. Wilson, of Burton, Norfolk, and of Eyam, Derbyshire; she died Jan. 17, 1691". The Gibels of Eyam were a family of distinction - the only remains of whom, in Eyam, is their name as distinguishing a barn and a tor: "Gibel barn", and "Gibel Torr".[2]

Eyam has been the birth place of a few very eccentric characters; amongst whom is one MICHAEL BARBER, who was Parish Clerk 59 years. He was a very learned man in his time - a profound astrologer; and the following anecdote is still related of him: - A villager and Michael were walking one day down Hunger-hill lane, Eyam, when they observed two teams ploughing in an adjoining field. The villager said, "Now, Michael, if you can stop yon two teams I shall have faith in your knowledge and power". Michael immediately went to work in the lane, and succeeded, after having performed certain incantations, in stopping one of the teams, but the other kept on. "There", said Michael, "I have stopped one, but the other I cannot stop". "How is that?" the villager replied. "Because", said Michael, "the ploughman has said his prayers this morning, and I have no power over those who live in the fear of God". Michael lived to a good old age: he died soon after the plague. Thomas Barber, his son, was also an adept in astrology.

CORNELIUS BRUSHFIELD, of the Hanging-flat, Eyam, was perhaps the greatest anchorite that ever lived. He dwelled in a house built on the ledge of a rock in the Dale, a full quarter of a mile from any other dwelling; and, it is said, that only on one solitary occasion did he leave his abode during his whole life; and this occasion was the great contested election in North Derbyshire, by Harper and Clarke, when Cornelius visited Eyam. He died in 1780, aged 66 years. His family were Presbyterians, and remarkable for their hospitality - never suffering a visitor to leave their house without having first partaken of a basin of milk and some bread.

JOHN GREGORY, of Riley, Eyam, was in his lifetime a very singular character. His contempt of modern habits, patriarchal appearance, and profound knowledge of the most abstruse sciences, rendered him deeply interesting. In his diet, and, in fact, in his whole demeanour, he approached to what may be supposed to have characterized the primitive inhabitants of the world. His apothegms are still current in Eyam. He died greatly venerated June 9th, 1820, aged 70 years.

JOHN DOOLEY, although not eccentric in habits, was still a singular man. His love of music, and astonishing powers of memory, claimed for him general respect and esteem. Perhaps but few individuals ever possessed a greater turn for keen; and caustic satire; some of his witty and pithy remarks will ever be remembered. He died a few years since at a good old age.

PHILIP SHELDON, in his day, was considered to be a very singular and disaffected character: time has, however, proved to every inhabitant of the village that his singularity consisted in clearly seeing, and in boldly and openly declaring the disastrous consequences which would ensue from the blind policy of our rulers during the last great war with France. He died in May, 1820.

THOMAS BIRDS, Esq. the well known antiquary of Eyam, had perhaps the greatest and best collection of fossils and other curiosities in the kingdom; and their dispersion at his death has been the source of regret to the whole village. He was greatly distinguished for urbanity; and his benefactions to the poor have rendered his memory deservedly cherished.

Eyam is singularly distinguished for having few dissenters. With the exception of a very few Wesleyan Methodists, the whole population are of the Established Church. Methodism was, however, very early introduced in Eyam; though I believe the first promulgaters were in no place more abused. The first sermon preached in Eyam by the Methodists was in 1765, by Mr. Matthew Mayer, of Portwood-hall, near Stockport. The preacher stationed himself by Furness's barn side; but so much hostility was exhibited on this and a subsequent occasion, that he each time narrowly escaped with life. The few friends of the preacher were pelted with brick-bats, mud, stones, and other missiles, and to such a degree did the infatuated multitude carry on their opposition, that the preacher had the ringleaders brought before a magistrate, who bound them in recognizances for their good behaviour in future. Recourse to the law had not, however, the effect anticipated: the mass of the villagers would not suffer the preachers, to come into the village, and for a many years no effort was again made. The few converts to the new doctrine repaired to Grindleford Bridge, where the preachers were not molested; in time the number increased, and preaching was again resumed in Eyam, and a chapel was erected at the east end of the village somewhere about 1780. Everett, in his History of Methodism, says, that the then inhabitants of Eyam "were employed in the lead mines, and were a most savage race".

[1] The notorious Judge Bradshaw was of this family; his grandfather went from Bradshaw Hall, Chapel-en-le-Frith, to Wyberslegh, mar Marples, Cheshire, where the regicide was born.
[2] I have a notion that the Gibels were Colyns - Gibel I cannot find written, and therefore think it is not rightly written here, but it if pronounced now nearly as I have given it.


This information was collated and transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in September 2012.

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