Churches of Derbyshire

The Chapelry of Derwent

by J. Charles Cox (1877)

This transcription by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2010

ABOUT the close of the twelfth century, John, Earl of Mortaigne, in the reign of his brother Richard, bestowed a large tract of land in this part of the parish of Hathersage, on the Premonstratensian Abbey of Welbeck. It is described in the charter as the pasture of Crookhill, the woods of Ashop up to Lockerbrook, and from Lockerbrook up the valley of the Derwent, even to Derwent-head. This grant was confirmed by King John in the 16th year of his reign, and again by Henry III.[1]

A family, who took their name from the manor, held, as we have seen, the manor of Hathersage, and its appurtenances seem to have stretched up the valley as far as Derwent. On the death of Matthew Hathersage, towards the end of the reign of Henry III., these estates were divided between two co-heiresses. Oliver, son of Nigell de Longford, whose mother was Cecilia, co-heiress of Matthew de Hathersage, gave to the Abbey of Welbeck the remaining lands at Derwent, on which the Grange itself was erected, and which is now known by the name of “the Abbey”, or Abbey Farm. A Taxation Roll that was taken of the possessions of the Abbey of St. James, of Welbeck, in 1299, gives the value of their estates at Crookhill at £7 17s. 4d.[2]

The same Chartulary tells us, that in the reign of Edward III., the Grange “in pecco”, commonly called “Cruchill”, in Hope parish, obtained an exemption, by the authority of the Pope, from the payment of tithes of the newly-tilled lands which they had planted with vegetables with their own hands, of the increase of the animals, of the gardens, and of the orchards. It is also specially mentioned in this place that the Grange was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Dean of Lichfield.[3]

It appears that there were at one time no less than four chapels on this extensive monastic estate, all doubtless served by the monks of Welbeck. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that regular daily service was carried on in all of them, any more than is now the case with the multitude of small chapels in certain districts of Roman Catholic countries, where only occasional masses are said. According to the change of the season, labour would be most in demand now in one part, and now in another of their domains; and probably the monks were anxious to have a chapel for the devotions of themselves and their dependents near to the immediate site of those practical good works of fertilising the ground, to which the Premonstratensians were specially addicted. But be this as it may, the four chapels were thus situated:-

I. At Derwent, near the site of the present church; this was probably the most important, as it was by the old water-mill, near to which a small colony would be sure to be in permanent residence.

II. At the Abbey Grange, some three miles higher up the stream on the same side of the water; a portion of this ancient grange is still standing, and inhabited as a farm-house, whilst the foundations of the more extensive establishment can be readily traced. The chapel seems to have stood immediately to the south of the present building.

III. On the opposite side of the river, communicating with the Grange by a bridge, the semi-artificial piers of which can still be seen on each side of the bank; this chapel, in the township of Woodland, was near the present farm buildings, between Birchin Lee and Marebottom, that are now approached by a road called Chapel Lane.

IV. In the Woodlands, by the side of the old Roman road, near where the present “Pillar”[4] stands, which was in all probability an ancient wayside cross; a wood near Ashopton is still known by the name of Friars' Walk.

At the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII., all these chapels would naturally suffer from neglect and desuetude. Probably the first to perish would be the one on the high ground by the Pillar, and, secondly, the chapel that formed part of the Grange, whose new owners would only care to preserve such of the old buildings as would suffice for farm purposes. We know that the chapel on the other side of the water, opposite the Grange, lasted longer, for it is marked on Saxton's Map of Derbyshire (1557), on Speede's (1610), on Marden's (c.1710), on Bowen's (c.1750), and on Ellis' (1777), under the title “New Chappel”. This name would seem to imply that it was built subsequently to the one attached to the Grange, and hence its cognomen, which would cling to it even when it had itself become venerable with age.[5] The chapel at Derwent itself, which was dedicated to St. James, remained, and was probably served from time to time by a curate, who was supplied by the purchaser of the monastic estates. In an account of lands sold in the reign of Queen Mary, the property at Derwent is mentioned, and “the leade, bells, and advowsons”, are excepted from the sale.[6] The Parliamentary Commissioners of 1650, describe “Darwent” as a parochial chapelry in the parish of Hathersage, with an income of £8. They recommend that it should be made a parish church.[7] One Mr. Burdyes was then the incumbent.

In 1688 we find the Earl of Devonshire paying through his agent, Mr. Greaves, of Rowlee, £5 as a gratuity to the Rev. Mr. Nicholls, “for his services at Derwent Chapel”. In the month of February, 1707, there is an entry in the parish registers of Hope, among the list of Sepulti, of “Dom. Phil. Hutton. Curatus de Darwent”. From a board of bequests in Hope Church, we learn that Henry Balguy, who died in 1685, and whose monumental brass is described in our account of that church, left the sum of £20 to “an orthodox and conformable Minister of Derwent Chapel”. The Rev. Robert Turie, curate of Eccleshall, and assistant-minister of the parish church of Sheffield, bought back the alienated Abbey Farm, and it was eventually added to the living of Derwent in 1722.[8]

The ancient family of Balguy, who, up to the middle of the seventeenth century, appear to have chiefly resided at Rowlee, built Derwent Hall in 1672, and in the same year gave the font to the adjacent chapel, and probably other benefactions. The font, which is of a simple but good octagon design, bears the date 1670, the Balguy arms, and the name “Henery Bauegey”, phonetically spelt. It now stands in the new church, but up to a recent date it served as a geranium-pot in the Hall gardens.

In 1757, the pre-Reformation chapel having become dilapidated, it was pulled down, and another one built upon a small scale. From a south-east view of this chapel, which was taken by the Rev. R.R. Rawlins in 1824, and from a north-west view given in the Reliquary to illustrate the Rev. F. Jourdain's paper, we can gather a good idea of this ugly little building, with its round-headed windows and square bell-turret at the west end. Its area was only thirty-five feet ten inches by twenty-three feet four. In 1867 this mean edifice, which had neither antiquity nor beauty to recommend it, was happily removed, and a church of admirable proportions (to which a handsome tower and spire were added in 1873) erected in its place. It would be foreign to our purpose to describe the new building, but it may be mentioned that the old foundation-stone, bearing the date “1757”, which was then found face downwards, is built into the east wall of the chancel; and that numerous plainly-moulded stones of fourteenth century work that were found in the walls of the smaller edifice were again used in the masonry. The sundial that was on the walls of the 1757 building still stands in the churchyard, near the south entrance, affixed to the remains of a fourteenth century beam of the old chapel. On the dial is the motto, “Mors de die accelerat”. This was the work of Daniel Rose, a native of Wales, who lived for many years in the dales of Woodland and Derwent. He was clerk of Derwent chapel, and manufactured sundials whilst teaching in the old school at that place. The dials at Hathersage, Hope, and other churches and halls in the county, are of his workmanship. His mother, who died in 1819, lived to the age of 105.

There is a tradition current in the neighbourhood, according to which certain Scotch rebels were imprisoned and starved to death within the walls of the old chapel. This tradition has been connected with the expedition of the Young Pretender into Derbyshire in 1745; but it seems much more likely that it should refer to the transit of the Scotch army through the county in 1648, when they were being conducted as prisoners to London. We know that 1500 of them were imprisoned for sixteen days in the church of Chapel- en-le-Frith, during which time no less than forty-four perished from one cause or another;[9] and it is very likely that other sections of the prisoners were temporarily quartered, with probably an insufficiency of food, in adjacent churches.

Nor should we omit to notice that this church possesses a very fine silver-gilt chalice, beautifully engraved with figures emblematic of the elements. The hall-mark proves it to be of the year 1584-5. The church plate also includes a silver paten of the date 1763-4, on which is inscribed “Chapel of Darwent, from Dr. Denman”. The patronage of the chapel had been sold by Mr. Balguy to Joseph Denman, M.D., about this date. He was the father of the first Lord Denman. The advowson subsequently passed into the hands of the Newdigates, and now rests with the Duke of Devonshire.

[1] For several particulars in this account of Derwent Chapelry, we are indebted to papers contributed to the Reliquary (vol. X.) by Mr. Benjamin Bagshawe, and the Rev. P. Jourdain. The latter gentleman - Vicar of Derwent-Woodlands - has also most kindly given us much information with respect to his own and adjacent parishes, which has not hitherto been published. The Chartulary of Welbeck Abbey is amongst the Harl. MSS., No. 3,640. The grants relative to Crookhill occur at ff. 218, 219.
[2] Harl. MSS., 3,640, f. 64.
[3] Harl. MSS., 3,640, f. 271.
[4] Up to a very recent date it was customary to affix all notices relative to the township of Woodlands to this pillar, though at some distance from any habitation.
[5] On several maps, at the commencement of the present century, the same site is termed “ Old Chapel”.
[6] Harl. MSS., 608, f.1b. From the word “advowsons” it would seem as if the presentation to more than one chapel was implied.
[7] From this recommendation, when we compare it with similar suggestions of the commissioners, it seems fair to assume that it was a building of some little magnitude, at all events of superior proportions to that which was built in 1757.
[8] Rev. Robert Turie appears to have become interested in this district through his intimacy with the Balguys. He was a Scotchman [sic] by birth. He also improved the livings of Edale and Dore, and by his will, dated 19th February, 1720, left educational endowments to Derwent, Edale, Dore, Stony Middleton, Bamford, and other places.
[9] See the account of Chapel-en-le-Frith church.
  See also an account from The Reliquary (1869-70) of Derwent Old Chapel, transcribed by Ann Andrews, which includes an engraving of the Chapel.

[Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in November 2010.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page:
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library