Houses of Interest: Derbyshire

Derbyshire wasn’t the county of major battles, it was mostly the source for soldiers for conflict in neighbouring counties. There were however countless skirmishes and short lived sieges, the majority of which are poorly documented. The other thing that Derbyshire had was lead mines, vitally important for supplying the lead for musket shot.

Bolsover Castle: mmmm, I hear you say. Besieged? Nope. Battle of? Nope. Home of William Cavendish the Marquis of Newcastle, and commander of the King's northern army? You'd be correct.

Like several grand houses in Derbyshire, Bolsover had a Royalist garrison, which was a bit of a thorn in the Parliamentarian side. Troops from the garrison venturing out to disrupt Parliamentarian activities, and gather supplies. On one occasion an "agent" was sent to Derby to sow discord and incite rioting.

Home to the Cavendish family, William entertained King Charles and his Queen, Henrietta.  William was an accomplished horseman, and was to become Charles II's riding instructor.

A castle existed on this site from the eleventh century; Charles Cavendish, and then his son William, undertaking a major rebuild in the early seventeenth century.

After the defeat at Marston Moor, Newcastle fled to the continent, and Parliamentarian forces moved into Bolsover. In 1649 The Parliamentary Council of State ordered the slighting of Bolsover to prevent it being used as a defensive military structure.

The castle is now cared for by English Heritage. So expect the obligatory café and shop selling chutney and toy swords.

What's there now?

The stable block is most impressive, fans of exposed roof beams will be ecstatic. During the spring and summer, there are demonstrations of Stuart riding techniques in the stable block. Think of it as Derbyshire's very own interpretation of Vienna's Spanish Riding School. But smaller. And with only one horse.

Part of the stable block has interpretive panels explaining why the castle is in the condition it is in, life in the castle in the seventeenth century, and William Cavendish's relationship with the royal households.

The house built by Charles and William is now just walls. Keep the small people occupied by seeing how many jacks (keeping the walls up), and how many survey markers they can spot.

The Little Castle is intact, and shows seventeenth century decor off nicely, having been restored by William's children.

One of the fireplaces has some nice ECW militaria embellishments

Adjacent to the Little Castle is a walled garden, with a central fountain.

Anything Brussels can do, Bolsover can do better. In your face Mannekin Pis!

There are a number of car parks serving the castle, all located on Castle Street. two adjacent to the pub (one of which is purely for castle visitors), further dedicated castle parking on the right just after the entrance to the castle (English Heritage signage), and a further car park located near the fire station.

Okay, not a 'house of interest', a church: St Mary's Church Wirksworth. Really interesting church with Anglo Saxon carvings from an earlier church on the site. Parliament's man in Derbyshire is buried here - Sir John Gell.

Buxton Museum has a contemporary portrait of the Regecide, Justice John Bradshaw. Sadly not currently on display, it can be viewed online at ArtUK.

Hardwick Hall is interesting, two houses for the price of one you might think. Or not, as in this case. The more intact house, Hardwick Hall, is cared for by the National Trust. English Heritage, cares for Hardwick Old Hall, a mere road’s width away. The National Trust have the car park, tearooms and toilets. English Heritage have a ruin.

Hardwick is famous for being built by Elizabeth I’s friend, lady in waiting, and Derbyshire matriarch Bess of Hardwick. Or more formally Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury.  Bess built Hardwick as a statement piece when in her 60s, once complete she moved out into another of her properties – Chatsworth. Married four times, it is her second marriage to William Cavendish which is probably of most interest to the Civil War aficionado. Their fourth child, Charles would father William Cavendish (aka Earl of Newcastle). 

Colonel Charles Cavendish, on display in the Long Gallery

Between them Bess’s dynasty would own Bolsover Castle, Welbeck Abbey, Hardwick and Chatsworth. Her great grandson, (yet another, but different) William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire, would be impeached by Parliament in early 1642 but fled the country and into exile. Day to day running of Hardwick would fall into the hands of his younger brother Colonel Charles Cavendish. Charles was de facto colonel of the The Duke of York’s Regiment of Horse. Charles would fall at Gainsborough in July 1643.

What’s there today?
The Hall is world famous for its collection of Tudor tapestries, but there are a few artefacts to pique the interest of the Civil War anorak. The entrance hall has a fine display of armour, there are a number of harquebusier sets of breast and back plates and three bar pot helmets. There are a handful of morions too. On either side of the door are a number of pistol holders. The number of items on display is suggestive that they were for a troop attached to the Hall. No evidence places a garrison at the Hall, however the dynasty’s other properties were garrisoned:
Colonel John Frescheville’s Regiment of Horse - Bolsover and Welbeck garrisons (Frescheville also had a foot regiment, which could account for the morions)
Sir Sigismund Beeton’s Regiment of Horse – Bolsover garrison
Colonel John Milward’s Regiment of Horse – Chatsworth garrison (also a foot regiment)
Colonel Rowland Eyre’s Regiment of Horse – Chatsworth garrison (also a foot regiment)
Colonel Roger Molyneux’s Regiment of Horse – Chatsworth garrison

Do these helmets and cuirass belong to one of these regiments? The National Trust catalogue has scant details, but I would imagine that they probably do have a connection to one, or more of the family’s properties. Sadly, I don’t think we will ever know. (My guess is that they are from the Chatsworth garrison, as there appears to be a stronger connection between the two houses: Hardwick's archive, for example, is held at Chatsworth.)

Both houses are swathed in scaffolding at the moment; the Old Hall is currently closed to visitors.

Swarkestone bridge is a mile long medieval bridge and causeway that crosses the River Trent and surrounding marsh land. The marsh has long since been drained but the thirteenth century structure is no less impressive. Such a strategic river crossing was understandably guarded by local troops (in this case Royalists under the command of Sir John Harpur of nearby Calke Abbey). Sir John Gell lead a sizeable Parliamentarian force to take the bridge on the 6th January 1643. Casualties were minimal before the Royalists realised that their position was untenable so turned and fled. 

As the bridge struggles to be wide enough to cope with two lanes of modern traffic the walkway is very narrow. Best viewed from the beer garden of the Crewe and Harpur pub, with a drink in hand.

Calke Abbey is an intriguing National Trust property a few miles away from the bridge. The eclectic and down at heel residence has little to offer in the way of Civil War artefacts other than a couple of portraits (including a lovely miniature of Charles Gerard), and what looks to be a cannonball from a drake. It does, however, provide the perfect antidote to immaculately presented stately homes.

Charles Gerard

The Marquis of Newcastle marched into the county in 1643 with minimal opposition; setting up camp in Chesterfield. Almost immediately, he turned his attention to the Parliamentarian garrison at Wingfield Manor. The vastly outnumbered garrison quickly surrendered after being on the end of a bombardment. Parliament would retake the Manor a year later – their bombardment causing considerably more damage to the house than the Royalist assault.

The ruins of Wingfield are just about still standing (the house all but collapsed in the C18th); cared for by English Heritage, the site is closed to the public as the ruins are deemed too dangerous. Its address is included for completeness only.

Newcastle would soon withdraw from the county and march back to York and Marston Moor.

Derbyshire was home to a number of garrisoned houses sympathetic to the crown: Bolsover Castle, Chatsworth, Welbeck Abbey, Tissington Hall, and the town of Bakewell. The horse garrisoned at Tissington and Bakewell would meet daily at Ashbourne from whence they raided villages, markets and farms for supplies. Gell would order 500 horse and dragoons under Captain Thomas Sanders to assist the siege at Biddlulph in neighbouring Staffordshire, the Royalist horse would attempt to stop them at Ashbourne.

Little is recorded of the encounter other than Sanders’ men knew of the Royalist plans and set a trap. The dragoons lined hedgerows, and the cavalry attacked the Royalists from the rear.  The Royalists were routed through the town, 127 prisoners were taken and many killed. So bad was this rout that Tissington and Bakewell garrisons fled to Chatsworth and Wingfield.

Tissington Hall is now a wedding venue, but can still be toured by the general public on high days and holidays.

Ashbourne has a large number of buildings of Tudor origin in the town centre and a gallows sign that linked two public houses. Other than that there is no evidence that a large skirmish/small battle took place here.

Bakewell's C14th bridge

Bakewell is a town divided: which of three shops was the originator of the Bakewell Pudding (absolutely nothing like the Mr Kipling offering)? The town is home to a C14th bridge that crosses the River Wye (home to some enormous trout who have grown fat on eating chips thrown to them by tourists), and a number of Tudor buildings that may well have witnessed some of the events.

To the south of the county in the village of Barton Blount is Barton Hall, which was garrisoned for Parliament in October 1644, under the command of Captain Nathanial Barton, in opposition to nearby Tutbury Castle. In August 1645 the garrison attacked the retreating Royalists fleeing from Naseby. The Royalists were marching from Tutbury to Ashbourne and were attacked from the rear by “a body of 500 of the enemies horse” (Richard Symonds’ diary). We aren’t too sure where this encounter took place. The Hall is now a private residence; it has, in the past, been possible to visit the gardens as part of the National Garden Scheme open days. 

Staveley Hall

Staveley Hall was garrisoned for the King by John Frecheville in 1644: it wouldn’t last long as it was captured almost without a fight. Staveley Hall is run as a wedding and conference centre, it does have a café that is open to the general public.

Tutbury Castle was garrisoned by Henry Hastings, second son of the 5th Earl of Hunntingdon, for the King in late 1642/early 1643. Gell would receive intelligence that Hastings’ men were “devoured (of) all the provison they had” (John Gell’s “A True Relation…”) so set about besieging the castle, his men digging trenches. Gell’s intelligence was incorrect, Hasting had resupplied the garrison. Ireton and the Nottingham horse arrived and informed Gell that Newcastle was marching south to relieve Tutbury and the siege was abandoned. (Newcastle was marching south but was heading towards Leicestershire). Tutbury would eventually fall to Gell and Brereton in April 1646 after a three week siege. The castle would eventually be sleighted by order of Parliament.

The folly built in 1780 upon the motte at Tutbury Castle

Whilst technically now in Staffordshire, it makes more sense to include Tutbury in the Derbyshire ECWtravelogue entry. The ruins of the castle can be visited (check their website for opening details, the castle is also a wedding venue so can often be closed on days when it should, in theory, be open). There are still some extant rooms which are furnished in a C16th and C17th style. The castle often puts on re-enactment days.

Bretby Hall was garrisoned by the Earl of Chesterfield with 40 musketeers and 80 horse. Sir John Gell ordered it to be taken sending 400 men under Major Johannes Molanus who took the Hall in less than a day, before plundering the house. The current Hall dates from the early C19th, it is argued that some of the C17th defensive eartworks are still extant within the grounds. The Hall is now private apartments and is strictly private.

Weston Hall was garrisoned for Parliament, and controlled the land to the north of the traditional crossing point of the Trent. The southern bank of the Trent was held by the Royalists. A battle in 1644, to the south east of the Hall on land adjacent to the old river crossing and King’s Mill Lane, saw Gell take nearly 200 Royalist prisoners (see map for approximate location). Some of Parliament’s fallen are reputedly buried in nearby St Mary’s churchyard.

The Cooper Arms at Weston Hall

Weston Hall was never finished, the building clearly still shows the ‘work in progress’. The Hall is now a pub, The Cooper Arms at Weston Hall, which is a good enough reason to visit. What is now the bar is thought to have been used as stabling. On the wall in the carvery are the coats of arms of Charles I and Lord Huntingdon (these were trophies taken from Ashby Castle). Black Tom allegedly spent the night here, the pub has a Fairfax themed room as a result.

The Crispin Inn in Ashover saw an incident in 1646 between its landlord, Job Wall, and some drunken Royalist soldiers. Wall informed the men that he would no longer serve them as they had had too much drink already. The soldiers threw Wall out of his own pub and then set about drinking the place dry.

Castleton Garland Day is one of many celebrations peculiar to Derbyshire, always held on Oak Apple Day the 29th May (unless it falls on a Sunday). The celebration is supposedly in commemoration of the Restoration of Charles II.

Chatsworth without the obligatory fountain in the foreground

At the risk of this post turning into a catalogue of Bess of  Hardwicke's property portfolio it is inevitable that I would eventually get around to mentioning Chatsworth House. The House that was garrisoned for the King is long gone, having been replaced by the English baroque palace (in all but name) that dominates the landscape and heritage of Derbyshire. Rebuilt by the 1st Duke of Cavendish in the late C17th as he was forced to retire to Chatsworth during the realm of James II. A firm supporter of the Glorious Revolution the House was lavishly renovated in the hope of a visit of William and Mary, which never came. Landscape, you guessed it, by Capability Brown.

The 1st Duke circa 1640s

The 1st Duke's father , the 3rd Earl had sat out the Civil Wars on the continent, his sons and nephews taking a more active role.

How Chatsworth looked during the Wars

What’s there today?
Chatsworth has little to show for its role during the Wars. Be warned: Chatsworth is ridiculously expensive to visit. Book online otherwise you'll have to stump up a car parking fee as well! The dining room has the most to offer the ECWtravelogue visitor. There are a number of Van Dyck portraits of the family on display.

Haddon Hall

Haddon Hall is a fortified Elizabethan manor house that has spectacular views across the local valley. Home to Sir John Manners, who inherited the title Earl of Rutland in 1641. Sir John was a moderate Parliamentarian who appears to have avoided any involvement in the Wars. Clearly his moderate approach paid dividends as he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire after the Restoration. The Wars appear to have passed Haddon by, untouched. It does not even appear to have been garrisoned. So why does it appear in the ECW travelogue? The Hall has a very small museum, which houses artefacts found in the 1920s by the 9th Duke of Rutland, along with some items that he collected.

There are three pairs of Civil War era cavalry boots on display, and the ubiquitous buff coat. But what is most interesting, and worth visiting the hall for, alone is a musketeers bandolier. The bandolier was purchased by the 9th Earl in 1934 from a sale at Sotheby's. The bandolier had been found in 1876 when an 'ancient house' was demolished in Trinity Street, Cambridge. Each charger is covered in leather and stamped upon them is a portrait of Charles I. The bandolier also sports a buff leather flap to 'weatherproof' the tops of the chargers.

Hopefully you can see the weatherproof flap - reflections were not conducive to photo taking

The hall is also home to three tapestries, from a set of five, that used to belong to Charles I. Known as the 'Five Senses' they were purchased from the sale of the royal belongings ordered to be sold by the Council of State in 1649. The royal cipher has been been removed and would have been where the blue oval lozenge is at the top of the tapestries.

Haddon, and a true life love story of elopement of one of the hall's Tudor residents, inspired Arthur Sullivan to write the Civil War set operetta 'Haddon Hall' (without his usual writing partner W.S. Gilbert).

The Curzon family 'bulldozed' the medieval village of Kedleston in 1759 to build their magnificent Palladian house. They did leave the 12th century All Saints Church intact. Inside the church is a memorial to Sir John Curzon, 1st Baronet Curzon. He was elected as an MP to the Short Parliament, returning to the Long Parliament and excluded during Pride's Purge.

The church and house are both cared for by the National Trust.

Postcodes for SatNavs
Bolsover Castle S44 6PR
St Mary's Church, Wirksworth DE4 4DQ 
Buxton Museum, Buxton SK17 6DA
Hardwick Hall, Chesterfield S44 5QJ
Swarkestone Bridge (Crewe & Harpur pub) DE73 7JA
Calke Abbey, Ticknall DE73 7JF
Wingfield Manor,  Alfreton DE55 7NH
Tissington Hall, Ashbourne DE6 1RA
Bakewell, (Combs Road car park) DE45 1AQ
Ashbourne (Shawcroft car park) DE6 1GD
Barton Hall, Barton Blount DE65 5AN
Staveley Hall, Chesterfield S43 3TN
Tutbury Castle, Burton-on-Trent DE13 9JF
Bretby Hall, Burton-on-Trent DE15 0QG
The Coopers Arms at Weston Hall, Weston-on-Trent DE72 2BJ 
St Mary The Virgin, Weston-on-Trent DE72 2BU
Crispin Inn, Ashover S45 0AB
Castleton, (visitor centre car park) S33 8WH
Chatsworth House DE45 1PP
Haddon Hall, Bakewell DE45 1LA
Kedleston Hall & All Saint's Church, Kedleston DE22 5JH

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  1. Excellent as ever. I visited Bolsover a couple of years back and it got me thinking about horses obviously enough. The sheer number of horses needed to support the armies in the Civil Wars must have been significant. Both the breeding and training of horses required significant investment and must have operated on a close to industrial scale, yet I've seen little direct historical research about this aspect.

    1. Thanks Dex. I remember seeing a volume by William Cavendish (Newcastle) for sale at the the Portland Collection (on the Welbeck Abbey estate) about the training and riding of horses - I didn't pick up a copy, I wonder if it gets a mention in there?

    2. Thanks for your comment - it reminded me about Welbeck Abbey, another of the Cavendish dynasty's properties. I've updated the post.

  2. I drove past Tissington Hall today as part of a longer trip. I was having a look at the OS maps subsequently as I passed and I see there is a 'siegework' recorded in the village itself. The National Heritage register indicates there is a redoubt surviving some 150 yards east of the Hall. I shall have to go back.


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