Rambling round Barlow

Recently we led a walk around Barlow for our local Ramblers group and as we like to have some background to our walk we started researching the old halls in that area – we were due to walk past at least nine Tudor/Stuart halls and houses. This started a historical dig in books and Internet that raised many fascinating details. These quiet local lanes and footpaths took on a different aspect once the tales of conquests, wars, travel and suspicious doings were revealed.

Starting in Cutthorpe (once nationally famous for the breeding of white pigs!) we passed the “square-towered gem” of Cutthorpe Old Hall built by Ralph Clarke in 1625 on the main road through Cutthorpe, but tucked away down Green Lane was Cutthorpe Hall which had an older history. Occupied by Saxon farmers then Norman knights, the house was rebuilt in 1614 when George Heathcote purchased the estate from the Foljambes. The Heathcotes were bell founders from Loads, Brampton, whose wealth came from lead-mining; they also owned property in Chesterfield and were a prominent local family. In 1691, Caleb Heathcote emigrated to America and held the office of Mayor of New York on three successive occasions. He bought land in Westchester County NY and named it Scarsdale after his old home; the 1712 census showed 12 inhabitants of whom 7 were African-American slaves. The Heathcote mark on their bells was a swastika (or fylfoot cross) and this is also found in the symbol of Scarsdale, NY.

Caleb’s brother, Gilbert, was a promoter of the East Indies Company, became Governor of the Bank of England, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and, in 1711, was Lord Mayor of London. In 1700 Gilbert was sent to Parliament as member for the City of London, but he was soon expelled for his share in the circulation of some exchequer bills; however, he was again elected for the city later in the same year (bankers and politicians again!) Out next hall was no longer actually standing – we congregated on the Linacre Woods car park to learn we were above the foundations of the old Linacre Hall where Thomas Linacre had been born in 1460 – a remarkable and famous man, he became Henry VII’s envoy to the Papal Court and tutor to Medici princes, returning to England to become physician to Henry VIII, tutor to illustrious intellectuals, as well as founder and first President of the Royal College of Physicians. A memorial plaque to him in the Parish Church at Old Brampton claims that, “To him was chiefly due the revival of classical learning in this country”.

Taking care not to fall, we strolled past the early C17th Pratt Hall learning that “pratt” was an old English word meaning trick (as in pratt fall) and after a few fields came on the Mear Stone marker on Grange Hill. This is one of the boundary markers which was used in riding the bounds of the Barlow estate. A remarkable set of “Remembrances” was written by Arthur Mower of Barlow Woodseats, an agent of the Barlow estate. He recorded details of his family life and major events on the estate – the original manuscript is on a 100 foot roll in the British Museum. Arthur records riding past this stone with George Earl of Shrewsbury who took possession of the Barlow Estate in 1593 – the Earl (Bess’s husband) rode the bounds in a horse litter as he was too frail to ride horseback.

Passing Barlow Grange, early C17th and originally built to store produce from the Barlow estate, we came to Barlow Woodseats and the astonishing cruck barn with at least seven bays. We were able to have a good look inside as it was being re-roofed. This barn dates from c1400 and is the longest, continuous roofed barn in Derbyshire. Barlow Woodseats itself (comprehensively rebuilt in 1624) is no disappointment after the barn.

Recent owners of the house were the Milward family (famous for sewing needles) until 2006; Rosemary Milward was a local mediaeval historian. We ploughed through the mud of Rose Wood where an American Phantom aircraft crashed in 1970 following problems during a training flight. Both air-men ejected safely landing on Curbar Edge – one of the ejector seats was found later near Ramsley reservoir. The local school children were quicker than the fire brigade and bits of the aircraft were traded in the playground over the following weeks.

At Unthank Hall (late C16th) we examined the cruck frame tithe barn (early C17th) – 5 bays this time - and then headed down the hill, across Cordwell Brook and up the bridleway which would have been the old “gate” to Holmesfield Park. “Gate” is the old Viking word for street; this area was borderland between Saxon and Viking areas and retains names derived from both cultures.

Past Horsleygate Old Hall, late C16th, we pressed on to Cartledge Hall an asymmetrical Elizabethan and part Jacobean farmhouse from 1492. This weather-beaten old house was home to the Wolstenholme family; Sir John Wolstenholme was a merchant adventurer and founder of the Virginia Company. He helped fit out the ill-fated expedition of Henry Hudson, and the family was to be immortalised by Baffin on his maps with the naming of the inhospitable Wolstenholme Island.

Robert Murray Gilchrist who died in 1917 also lived here for a while. The Derbyshire novelist who was born in Sheffield in 1868 wrote many romantic novels set in the 18th century. He had many writer friends who he invited to stay at the hall and to join him on walks in the Peak District. When he died suddenly in his prime, this very popular man had a huge funeral including a contingent of Belgian refugees to whom he had been very kind. They found their way to this remote village to pay tribute.

The pre-c15th building of Cartledge Grange, with amazing stone water spouts and standing next to Cartledge Hall, originally belonged to the canons of Beauchief Abbey.

Barlow Lees, mid C17th, is now a less remarkable set of much altered farm buildings but is still intriguing as being the home to which Mrs Fox returned when she could no longer stand the wastrel ways of her son Peter Barlow and his wife in Barlow Hall – she decamped with all the furniture and provisions. We learn this from Arthur Mower’s Remembrances – that source also tells how Peter Barley took the lead off Barlow Church and managed to be cheated out of the estate in a hostelry in Calver (he thought he was mortgaging a small part of the estate but actually signed away all of it). His brother, James, who took over after him managed to re-lead the church roof but debts proved too much and he sold the estate to George, Earl of Shrewsbury. The house was taken down completely shortly after this.

Bess of Hardwick’s life was woven through this period of Barlow’s history: aged 17 she married her first husband 14 year old Robert Barlow in 1543 over his father’s death bed (probably to try and keep the inheritance away from the Office of Wards). It is thought that they never lived together before Robert himself died in 1544 leaving Bess to pursue her widow’s entitlement through the courts over several years. She would have been well used to the procedure, her mother having had to fight for inheritance after her husband died before his heir was over age 21. Bess eventually gained something but over 40 years later her fourth husband the Earl of Shrewsbury took possession of Barlow and we can only wonder what Bess thought of it.

Barlow suffered much during the Civil War having to provide marauding armies from both sides with “bread, hose, ale and horses”, the church being used as a billet. The church of St Lawrence was built in 1142 by monks from Louth Park, under Lincoln Cathedral on the instructions of Hasculf d’Abitot a descendant of Ascoit Musard, the Norman knight who had been given the manor of Barlow by William the Conqueror. D’Abitot later changed his name to Barlow after the manor.

And so back up the hill to Cutthorpe with much discussion about how this area was able to provide so many beautiful examples of early houses and halls. It seems that profits from new lead smelting techniques, coupled with relative peace during the time of the first Elizabeth I and James I may well have allowed the local yeomen to prosper. Arthur Mower built his splendid house in 1625; Thomas Burton of Cartledge had been a small stock farmer who could not read and write but new fortune enabled two of his sons to become sheriffs of the County and Robert Mower, grandson of Arthur, became renowned as “the great lead merchant”.

The sources we used for this information often disagreed with each other – we learned not to trust Wikipedia – so we cannot guarantee the accuracy of all this but hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the turbulent background of what is now a peaceful, rural area.

Mary & Keith Mellor


Derbyshire Dales Group