The History and Antiquities of Eyam

By William Wood (1842)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2012


The Register, in which there is nearly all that can be found respecting the names and dates of the succession of the Rectors, is astonishingly deficient in information on this head. By reference to other sources, and what the Register affords, I am still only able to give the following imperfect account, as respects the time when they succeeded each other. Nor have I been more successful in attempting to get the names of those who preceded the first on the following list:-

  Died Died or
Suspended Resigned
Rev. Robert Talbot 1630      
Rev. Sherland Adams     1644  
Rev. Thomas Stanley       1662
Rev. Sherland Adams (again) 1664      
Rev. William Mompesson       1669
Rev. Henry[†] Adams or Oldham   1675    
Rev. ____ Ferns   1679    
Rev. ____ Carver[1]        
Rev. Joseph Hunt 1709      
Rev. ____ Hawkins       1711
Rev. Alexander Hamilton 1717      
Rev. Dr. Edmund Finch 1737      
Rev. ______ Bruce 1739      
Rev. Thomas Seward 1790      
Rev. Charles Hargrave 1822      
Hon. Rev. Robert Eden       1826
Rev. Edward B. Bagshaw, Present Rector        
Rev. J. Casson, Curate        

Of these Rectors, only a few have been particularly distinguished. The Rev. Robert Talbot, whose name is the first in the oldest Register, was of the family of the Talbots, Earls of Shrewsbury. The Talbots of Eyam, of whom the last of the name died in 1817, were descended from this Rector, and were consequently of the same aristocratical blood.[2]

The Rev. Sherland Adams, was Rector of Eyam, and also of Treeton, in Yorkshire. His numerous and vexatious suits at law with the parishioners of Eyam, rendered him extremely hated; and his conduct at Treeton, where he chiefly resided, was no less disreputable. When the war broke out between King Charles and the Parliament, his intolerance and party spirit became ungovernable; and his furious loyalty assumed such an aspect, that he was regarded with disgust. The measures he took in favour of the royal cause, excited the notice of the partizans of the Parliament, and he was seized, deprived of his livings, and cast into prison. The charges preferred against him are embodied in a pamphlet, written by one Nicholas Ardron, of Treeton, the only copy of which, now known, is in the British Museum. One of the accusations is as follows:- "Further, it is charged against him, that he is a man much given to much trouble and suits at law, as is well known at Eyam, in Derbyshire, where he was Rector, where they tasted of this his turbulent spirit; that he gave tythe of lead ore to the King against the Parliament, delivered a man and musket against them, and sent a fat ox to the Earl of Newcastle, as a free gift to maintain the war against the Parliament". He was amongst the number of gentlemen who compounded for their estates. For a small estate at Woodlathes, near Conisbro', he paid £198, where he resided until the restoration, when he was restored to his livings again. That this Rev. Divine, was a disgrace to his order, may be satisfactorily seen, from the following extra evidence:- When the Rev. ___ Fowler, Sheffield, gave up his living for non-conformity, Sherland said that, "Fowler was a fool, for before he would have lost his on that account, he would have sworn a black crow was white".[3] How glaring and striking the contrast between this conforming hypocrite, and the virtuous, non-conformist, Stanley. Adams died April 11th, 1664, and was buried in the chancel of the Church at Treeton, where a Latin epitaph commemorates his loyalty, virtues, and sufferings.

The Rev. Thomas Stanley, whose memory is still cherished in Eyam and its vicinity, with a degree of adoration which rarely falls to the lot of any public man, was translated to the living of Eyam, in the year 1644, immediately after the arrest of Sherland Adams, the bona fide Rector. He continued in his office, beloved and respected, until Bartholomew-day, 1662. It was in the capacity of Curate, however, that he officiated from 1660 to 1662. Sherland Adams, having obtained possession of his livings at the restoration, in 1660. After enduring, for a few years, the sneers and bickering of a few bitter enemies, Stanley laid his head on the pillow of death, encircled with an halo of consolation, arising from an uncorrupted heart and an unviolated conscience.

He was buried at Eyam, where he died, August, 1670. During the time of this holy man's ministry at Eyam, he performed the part of lawyer in the making of wills, and in numerous other matters. In his hand writing there are still extant numerous testamentary documents, and his signature is attached to many important deeds of conveyance, all tending to prove his high esteem - his honour and unimpeachable probity. He was supported by the voluntary contributions of two-thirds of the parishioners. Let it be understood, however, that the high character here given of Stanley, is from the consideration of his sterling virtues, and not from his non-conformity, of the nature of which, I have but a faint knowledge. Of his successor, Mompesson, enough can never be said in his praise.

The Rev. Joseph Hunt has rendered his name somewhat particular, by an ill-judged, and disgraceful act, during his ministry at Eyam. The circumstance, although but little known now, is, however, well authenticated, and is as follows:- A party of miners had assembled at the Miners' Arms Inn, Eyam, the house now occupied by Mr. John Slinn; it was kept by a Matthew Ferns, and an infant child of his being suddenly taken ill, the rector, Hunt, was sent for to baptise it immediately. Having performed the ceremony he was invited to sit and regale himself with the boozing bacchanalians - the miners. This, it appears, he did until he was inebriated. The landlord had a very handsome daughter about eighteen, and Hunt, inspired by John Barleycorn, began to speak out in luscious commendation of her charms. From one thing to another, it was at last agreed that Hunt should marry her; and the miners, not willing to trust him to fulfil his engagement another time, insisted that the ceremony should take place there and then. To this, after taking another glass, he unfortunately consented. The common prayer book was brought out, and one of the miners put on a solemn aspect, and read the whole ceremony: Hunt and the happy damsel performing their respective parts. After the affair had spread round the neighbourhood, it at last reached the ears of the Bishop of the Diocese, who threatened to suspend him if he did not fulfil in earnest what he had done in jest. He was therefore obliged to marry Miss Ferns, legally. This, however, was not the last of his misfortunes, arising from the affair: he was under promise of marriage to a young lady, near Derby, who immediately commenced an action against him for breach of promise. Some years were passed in litigation, which drained his purse and estranged his friends; and eventually, he had to take shelter in the vestry (which, I think, was built for that purpose), where he resided the remainder of his life, to keep the law-hounds at bay. He died in this humble appendage to the church, where his bones and those of his wife lie buried. He is represented to have been very social - the young men of the village visited him in his solitary abode, where they sat round the fire, telling, alternate tales to while away the dreary winter nights. This improvident marriage was attended with its natural consequence - poverty: he had a large family; and one of his descendants is now one of the most celebrated cricket-players in England; and another, a female belonging to Eyam, is now an inmate of the Bakewell Union Workhouse.

The Rev. __ Hawkins succeeded Hunt; but he only tarried in Eyam two years. He exchanged his living with the Rev. Alexander Hamilton, just before the rich vein of lead ore, commonly called the edge-side vein, came into Eyam liberty. The great profit accruing to the Rector from this circumstance, induced Hawkins to regret his exchange; and he, eventually, but unsuccessfully, used every possible means to annul his contract.

Dr. Edmund Finch, brother of Finch, the Earl of Nottingham, uncle and guardian to the daughters and coheiresses of William Saville, Marquis of Halifax, succeeded Hamilton, as Rector of Eyam. He left the great living of Wigan for the then very rich living of Eyam. During the twenty years he was Rector, he resided but little at Eyam. He gave the very handsome service of communion plate; and was otherwise a benefactor.[4]

The Rev. __ Bruce succeeded Finch. The living was presented to him while he was abroad. He died of brain fever, while returning in haste to take possession of his living.

The Rev. Thomas Seward was Rector from the death of Bruce in 1739 to 1790. He became, in 1772, Canon of Lichfield; but stilLheld the living of Eyam. The Rev. Peter Cunningham, poet, was his curate. During his residence in Lichfield, he made an annual visit to Eyam; and was frequently drawn in his carriage into Eyam by the rejoicing villagers, whom he invariably recompensed by the distribution of a well fed carcase of beef.

The Rev. Charles Hargrave succeeded Seward. Troubles, connected with his mode of obtaining the living harrassed him for some years. The matter was at length settled; and he lived thirty-two years as pastor, respected, loved, and deservedly esteemed.

The Hon. and Rev. Robert Eden, his successor, has left an indelible trace of sincere respect on the heart of every inhabitant of Eyam. He resigned the living in 1826; and his farewell sermon on the occasion drew from his sobbing audience a shower of tears. Since his departure he has, however, visited at intervals his former and affectionate flock; when he has had the satisfaction to see how highly he is still esteemed by the villagers of Eyam. The Rev. E.B. Bagshaw succeeded him, and is now the present Rector of Eyam.

THE LIVING, on account of the mines, varies in its annual amount. One penny for every dish of ore is due to the Rector; and twopence farthing for every load of hillock-stuff. During the greater part of the last century the living was worth from a £1000 to £2000 a year. Little, however, is now derived from the mines; but it is likely, should the speculations now in progress to liberate the mines from water, be carried into effect, that this benefice may become as valuable again, or even more so. it is now worth about £300 a year: near two-thirds of which is derived from glebe lands, and the remainder from tythes and surplice fees.

THE REGISTER contains but few matters worth transcribing. The following are the most particular: - "December 30th, 1663, buried Anna the traveller, who according to her own account, was 136 years of age. Edward Torre, June 30th, 1699, killed with a plugg over against the parson's fold. Elizabeth, the wife of John Trout, died in a snow near Sir William, as she was returning from Tideswell market, Feb. 4th, 1692. John White, found dead in the Dale, Feb. 18th, 1695". These are the few most prominent events recorded in the Register. I will, however, give one more extract strikingly indicative of the simplicity of the mode in which our village forefathers characterized each other:- "Old Robert Slinn, died 26th of November, 1692". How patriarchal! How much in keeping "with the spirit and manners of the locality", is this old man's distinction from others.

[1] This Rector was of the family of Carvers, of Whiston, Yorkshire, of whom M.M. Middleton Esq., Leam Hall, is a descendant.
[2] I have not any direct proof of what is here advanced, but it is almost certain. And I noticed in looking over the genealogy of the Earls of Shrewsbury, that the adopted names of the minor members were Richard, Robert, and William - the Talbots of Eyam were the same.
[3] Vide Hunter's History of Hallamshire.
[4] The great-great-grandfather of the author of this work, came with Finch, from Wigan, as a servant:- he was a young man; he married, had a family, and died in Eyam. Hence the origin of the author's family in Eyam; and hence their attachment to the Established Church.

Editor's Note
[†] The eighth edition lists the Rector for this period as William Adams or Oldham.

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

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