Bulmer's History of Derbyshire, 1895

THIS is an extensive parish and township in the hundred of Scarsdale, petty sessional division and county court district of Alfreton; union, rural district and deanary of Chesterfield. For carrying out the provisions of the Local Government Act of 1894, eight parish councillors and two district councillors have been assigned to Ashover The area of the parish, according to the rate-books, is 9,245 acres, besides which there are 42 miles of highways and 16 miles of main road. The ratable value is 11,146, and the population 2,353. The principal landowners are the exors. of W. de B. Jessop, Esq., Overton Hall; Messrs. Joseph William and John Lee, Bunting Field and Wilkin House: Miss Lee, Chesterfield; Mrs. Batteson, Chesterfield; Thomas Green, Northedge House; George Blackshaw, Sheffield; Mr. B. Gregory, Raven's Nest; John Henry Twigg, Amber House; Rev. J. B. Nodder; the Hon. Mrs. Hunloke; Samuel Burkitt, Esq., J.P., Wingerworth; Chesterfield Charity Trustees; James Addy, Esq.; Mrs. Emma Suffolk Wallace; John Tomlinson, Ashover; Joseph Wheatcroft, Wirksworth; William Turbutt, Esq., Ogston Hall ; Richard Holmes, Ashover; Mrs. Rosanna Holmes, Ashover; and Michael Humber, Esq.

The manor of Esseover (Ashover) at the time of the Domesday Survey was held by Serlo under Ralph Fitzhubert, and it had then its priest and church. About the beginning of the thirteenth century it was divided between two heiresses, who married a Willoughby and a Deincourt. The latter moiety was subsequently inherited by two sisters, who married Reresby of Lincolnshire and Musters of Nottinghamshire; and the share of the Musters was shortly afterwards divided between two sons, from one of whom a portion passed to the Piereponts. The original manor of Ashover was thus divided into four, which became known as New Hall, Old Hall or Reresby's, Muster's, and Pierepont's manors. The Reresbys also acquired Willoughby's share in exchange for their interest in the manor of Pleasley. They were a family of some distinction, and on several occasions filled the office of high sheriff. Newhall, afterwards called Eastwood Hall, remained in the possession of the Reresbys till 1623, when the trustees of Sir Thomas Reresby sold it, together with the advowson of the church, to the Rev. Emanuel Bourne, then rector of Ashover; and by intermarriage they descended to the Nodders. A portion of the estate was sold to the Milneses, and the hall and some land were purchased by the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty to augment the living of Brimington, near Chesterfield. The last occupant of Eastwood Hall, long the residence of the Reresbys, was the Rev. Emanuel Bourne, who had been presented to the rectory two years prior to his purchase of the manor. When the contentions between Charles I. and his parliament began, he very discreetly held aloof till the fuller development of circumstances indicated the probable result of the contest. But his neutrality rendered him an object of suspicion to both sides, and black mail to the amount of 10 was levied on him for the king's use, by a few royal soldiers, despatched to Ashover to watch the roads. He suffered still more from a company of Cromwell's dragoons, who took possession of the hall in the name of the parliament, and after failing to blow it down by three small pieces of ordnance placed on Fabric Hill, they accomplished its destrtiction by firing a barrel of gunpowder in the tower. "After that," says the reverend gentleman in a letter to his cousin, Mr. William Bourne, Manchester, "they sang a psalm and marched to the church. The scout, Master Smedley, ascended the pulpit and preached for two hours, about popery, priesteraft, and kingcraft, then singing a psalm were preparing to go, when one of the pioneers noticed the stained-glass window exhibiting the Crucifixion, and once belonging to the Reresbys, which they smashed, both glass and stonework. The prayer-book, surplice, and registers they carried to the Market Place, where they were publicly burnt. Wheatcroft, my parish clerk, wrote the following rhymes :-

'The Roundheads came down upon Eastwood Old Hall,
And they tried it with mattock and tried it with ball,
And they tore off the lead work and splintered the wood,
But as firmly as ever the battlements stood,
Till a barrel of powder at last did the thing,
And then they sang psalms for the fall of the king.'"

When the royal cause became utterly hopeless, he gave his influence to the Roundheads, and was rewarded with an appointment as Commissioner of Sequestration. He was determined not to sacrifice his rectories (he held also Aylestone in Leicestershire) for a few abstract opinions, and accepted all the ordinances of the Puritans, laying aside both surplice and prayer book, and leaving the celebration of marriages to the civil power. When episcopacy was re-established, he discarded his Presbyterianism and complied with the Act of Uniformity, passed in 1662.
The hall is now a picturesque ivy-covered ruin, its huge fire-place, still intact, at which four oxen might be roasted abreast, telling of the hospitality of our old English forefathers.
The Old Hall manor was conveyed in 1337 to Roger de Wynfield, and subsequently passed by marriage to the Rollestons. The male line of this family failed in the reign of Elizabeth, and the estate descended to the Pershalls, of Horsley, Staffordshire. It was subsequently sold in portions.
Muster's manor also belonged to the Wynfields, who resided at Edelstowe Hall. In later years the hall and estate belonged to a branch of the Gladwin family; they passed thence by an heiress to the Bournes, from whom they were purchased in 1808, by Mr. John Milnes; of Ashover. The hall, which has long been converted into a farmhouse, is now the property of Mr. John Twigg, of Amber House.
Pierepont's manor came to the Babingtons, from whom it was purchased by the Reresbys, and was sold with the other estates of Sir Thomas Reresby in several portions.
The parish is watered by the Amber river, from which the ground on either side rises steeply into lofty rugged hills, fir and pine-clad in places, the bare flinty rock protruding in others, or lying scattered in huge masses along the hill sides. One of these stones, called by the country people Robin Hood's Mark, measures 26 feet in circumference, and is supposed to weigh about 14 tons. Its extraordinary position favours the opinioin that it was so placed by art ; but how this was accomplished in prehistoric times, when the inhabitants of this country had scarcely advanced beyond the initial stage of civilisation, is a mystery that will probably never he solved. Near this is another rocking stone, designated the Turning Stone, which is supposed to have been in some way connected with Druidical worship. Another mass of rock, winch stands prominently out from the general outline of Overton Tor, has been named Gladstone's Nose from its fancied resemblance to the nasal organ of that veteran statesman. This scene of rugged grandeur is scarcely surpassed by any other in the country; and were it more easily accessible it would doubtlessly receive a much greater share of attention from tourists and others in search of the beautiful.

The soil is various, and almost entirely laid down in pasture. Limestone for agricultural purposes is abundant, and gritstone is quarried in several places. This stone is of exellent quality and in considerable demand for grindstones but the absence of railway communication, and the cost of carting the stone some three miles before it can be trucked, are very great obstacles to the furthur development of the trade. Frame-work knitting was formerly carried on to a small extent, and there was a cotton-doubling factory where several hands were employed; but these industries have been abandoned.

The village of Ashover, locally pronounced Ash'er, is romantically situated in a deep narrow valley, 19 miles N.W. from Derby, 7 from Alfreton, the same from Chesterfield, and 3 miles from Stretton, the nearest railway station. Leonard Wheatcroft, who was parish clerk, poet, tailor, and' schoolmaster, and died in 1706, wrote an account of the parish in manuscript, in which he says :- "Few villages are better situated for excellent water. The river Amber rises in this parish, and bears that name for ten miles; and there are besides eighty springs." The water is of exceptional purity, and the air bracing and conspicuously free from fogs. The place possesses many advantages as a health resort combined with beautiful scenery, and it has now two hydropathic establishments at which there are excellent domestic arrangements and moderate charges. Ashover House, the largest of these, erected by the Ashover Hydropathic Company, Litmited, is a handsome and commodious structure, fitted up for the luxurious comfort of visitors and patients requiring the hydropathic treatment. It is delightfully situated on an eminence, yet sheltered by lofty hills from the north and east, and commands from its elevated situation beautiful prospects of the picturesque valley of Ashover. The grounds are beautifully laid out, and contain lawn tennis and croquet grounds, bowling green, &c. The internal arrangements are most complete: the rooms most comfortably furnished, and both rooms and corridors are heated by an elaborate hot-water system. Ambervale House is another establisment of the same kind.

The village is supplied with water by the Ashover Water Company; and the Chesterfield Sanitary Authority, Alfreton Local Board, and the Clay Cross Company have reservoirs and filter beds in the parish. The weekly market, which was granted at an early period, has long been discontinued; but fairs are held on April 25th, October 15th, and the Monday before Martininmass. The latter is also a statute hiring for servants. The feast is held the first Sunday in July.

The Church (All Saints'), an ancient edifice of stone in the Gothic style, consists of chancel, nave with north and south aisles, south porch and western tower surmounted by a very elegant spire. Not a vestige of the Norman church remains. The present structure, according to Wheatcroft's MS. history, was rebuilt about the year 1419 ; and tradition attributes the erection of the tower and spire to the Babingtons. The church was once very rich in stained glass, representing sacred subjects and armorial bearings but much of this was destroyed by Cromwell's soldiers, and what they left has disappeared in the several restorations effected during the last century. The chancel is separated from the nave by a very fine screen of carved wood-work, said to have been erected by Thomas Babington, and the arms of that family appear on a shield above the doorway. In the north wall of the chancel are two shallow recesses under ogee-shaped arches, six feet wide by five feet high. Such recesses are very unusual on the north side, and their original purpose is now a matter of conjecture. The aisles are five bays in length, and at the east end of the south aisle was a chantry founded by Thomas Babington, in 1811, and endowed with an income valued, in 1547, at 5 1s. 4d., for the maintenance of a priest to sing mass. This chapel was enclosed by a screen of carved wood, which has long been removed and destroyed except the two shields of arms, since placed on the rood screen. There was also an altar at the east end of the north aisle. At the west end stands an ancient and very interesting font. The base is of stone, hexagonal in form, and comparatively modern; the upper part is of lead, cylindrical in shape, and ornamented by twenty embossed figures, loosely draped. Each figure stands under a semi-circular arched niche, with a book in the left hand. This font is said by Lysons and Glover to be of Saxon date, but other authorities, with greater probability, assign it to the late Norman period.

Other objects of interest within the church are two well executed brasses and an altar tomb. One brass bears a tonsured figure clad in eucharistic vestments, the trimming of the chasuble, maniple and stole, and the lacework of the alb being very minutely delineated. The slab bearing this brass had once a marginal inscuption to Philip Eyre, who was rector of the parish from 1471 till his death in 1504. The other brass is in excellent preservation, and bears the effigies of James Rolleston, of Lea, esquire, and Anna, his wife, with their nine daughters and four sons. He is clad in plate armour, over which is a cuirass; the lady in a long flowing robe, with tight sleeves, and angular head-dress. He erected thee monument after the death of his wife in 1507, leaving a blank for the insertion of the date of his own death, which his descendants neglected to fill in. There is an altar tomb of alabaster bearing the recumbent effigies of Thomas Babinigton, founder of the chantry, and Edith his wife. There are also several modern memorials, mural and stained glass, to members of the families of Bourne, Milnes, Dakeyne, Nodder, Colmore, and Moon.

The spire, which rises from within the embattled parapet of the tower, is tall and graceful, and forms a charming feature in the landscape from whichever side the village is approached. A portion of the spire, measuring about 21 feet, was blown down, and re-built in 1715. There are six bells in the tower. The interior of the church suffered much from the bad taste of the restorers in 1798 and 1843, and since 1880, upwards of 1,000 has been spent in retrieving it from those barbarous alterations and improvements(?). The coats of plaster and whitewash have been removed from the walls; the tower arch has been opened to the church; the rood loft staircase, north doorway, and hagioscope opened out, and a new organ and chamber for its reception have been built. The bells have been re-hung, one re-cast, and one presented by Mr. F. J. Fenton, of Amber Villa. The living is a rectory, vallued in the King's Book at 12 3s. ld., now worth 380, held by the patron, the Rev. John Bourne Nodder, M.A. There are 84 acres of glebe.

The earliest registers were burnt by Cromwell's soldiers in 1646; the present ones date from 1653. The following entry occurs under 1660 :- "Dorothy Mately, supposed wife of Jno. Flint of this parish, foreswore herself whereupon the ground opened and she sanke over hed Mar. 23rd, and, being found dead, she was buried March 25th." John Bunyan, who probably heard all the details of this remarkable incident during one of his preaching journeys in the district, has utilised it in his "Life and Death of Mr. Badman," first published in 1680, and re-issued in his collected works by Blackie & Son in 1855:- " But above all take that dreadful story of Dorothy Mately, an inhabitant of Ashover, in the county of Derby. This Dorothy Mately, saith the relater, was noted by the people of the town to he a great swearer, and curser, and liar, and thief; just like Mr. Badman; and the labor that she did usually follow was to wash the rubbish that came forth of the lead mines, and there to get sparks of lead ore; her usual way of asserting of things was with these kinds of imprecations, 'I would I might sink into the earth if it be not so,' or, 'I would God would make the earth open and swallow me up.' Now upon the 23rd March, 1660, this Dorothy was washing of ore, upon the top of a steep hill, about a quarter of a mile from Ashover, and was there taxed by a lad for taking of two single pence out of his pocket, for he had laid his breeches by, and was at work in his drawers; but she violently denied it, wishing that the earth might swallow her up if she had them; she also used the same wicked words on several other occasions that day. Now, one George Hodgkinson, of Ashover, a man of good report there, came accidentally by where this Dorothy was, and stood still awhile to talk with her, as she was washing her ore. There stood also a little child by her tub side, and another a distance from her, calling aloud to her to come away; wherefore the said George took the girl by the hand to lead her away to her that called her; but behold they had not gone above ten yards from Dorothy, but they heard her crying out for help, so looking back he saw the woman, and her tub and sieve twirling round, and sinking into the ground. Then saith the man, 'Pray to God to pardon thy sin, for thou art never like to be seen alive any longer.' So she and her tub twirled round and round till they sunk three yards into the earth, and there for a while stayed. Then she called again for help, thinking, as she said, she should stay there. Now the man, though great amazed, did begin to think which way to help her; but immediately a great stone, which had appeared in the earth, fell upon her head and broke her skull, and then the earth broke in upon her, and covered her. She was afterwards digged up, and found about four yards within the ground, with the, boy's two single pence in her pocket, but her tub and sieve could not be found."

A new cemetery, comprising 1 acre 3 roods, adjoining the churchyard was purchased and laid out in 1876 at a cost of 800. It is under the management of a board of nine members.

The parish is divided into four quarters or districts, each containing a number of scattered hamlets and farms. Ashover Quarter includes Appletree Knowl, Butts House, Eastwood Hall, Eastwood Grange, Hillside, Marsh Green, Meadow Lane, and Rattle; Mill Town Quarter includes Mill Town, Butterley, Gorse Hall, Overton Hall, Stubben Edge Hall, High Oredish, and Littlemoor; Upper End Quarter includes the north-western part of the township containing Overton and Kelstedge; Alton Quarter embraces the northern and north-eastern part of the parish, and includes Alton, Northedge, and Presse.

Nonconformity is an important factor in the religious life of the parish. A new Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was erected on the Moor in 1874, by four brothers of the Bassett family, in lieu of the old chapel at Rattle, which is now used as a Sunday School. There is another Wesleyan Chapel at Upper Town, built in 1868 at a cost of 100, exclusive of the site, which was given hy Mr. John Holmes, and a deal of gratuitous labour. It will seat l00 persons, and is in the Matlock Bridge circuit.

The Primitive Methodists have a chapel at Ashover Hay, built in 1824, and enlarged and altered in 1870; and they have also another at Littlemoor, built in 1858. Mount Zion Chapel (Wesleyan Reform), at Spitewinterwas erected in 1886 at a cost of 200, and will seat 100 persons. It is in the Clay Cross circuit. The members of the Methodist Free Church have a place of worship at Butts, a neat stone structure with square tower.

There are two schools in the parish - one under the Ashover School Board, the other endowed. The latter was originally founded at Hillside in 1703, and the present premises were erected at Upper Town in 1882, at a cost of 540. Its endowments amount to about 50 per annum. It is also used as a Church Mission Room. A Working Men's Institute and Reading Room was built in 1876 at a cost of 300, raised by voluntary subscriptions. It comprises reading, recreation, and billiard rooms, and a library of over 500 volumes.

Overton, an estate three-quarters of a mile south of Ashover, belonged anciently to a family that took their name from the place. From the Overtons it passed in 1327 to the Hunts, who possessed it till 1599, when it was sold in portions. The hall, with some land, was purchased by the Hodgkinsons of Northedge Hall, from whom it passed by the marriage of all heiress to the Banks, and descended to Sir Joseph Banks, the distinguished naturalist, and President of the Royal Society. In 1768 he and Dr. Solander accompanied Captain Cook on a voyage to the South Seas, and returned to England, after an absence of nearly three years, with a large collection of specimens illustrative of natural history. He also made a voyage to Iceland with the same object. He died in 1820, leaving a widow but no family, and after the death of Lady Banks this property was inherited by her nephew, Sir Edward Knatchbull, Bart., who sold it in 1829 in shares to Dr. Bright, of London, and Wm. Milnes, Esq. Dr. Bright's purchase included the hall, in which he occasionally resided. The estate was purchased by the late William de Burgh Jessop, Esq., J.P., in 1884. Whilst making a tennis ground here in 1887, 26 skeletons were found a few inches below the sward. They appeared to have been buried indiscriminately, as if hastily, and many of them were in good preservation; but no other relics were found to show how or when the interments took place. About thirty yards distant some coins, bearing the date 1742, were also turned up.

At the base of the hills, opposite Overton Hall, is Raven's Nest an estate purchased by Mr. John Gregory in 1600, and it is now the property of his descendant, Mr. John Bassett Gregory, to whom we acknowledge our indebtedness for much interesting information. Veins of lead occur among the flinty hills, and mining operations were carried on at the Gregory mines for many years. The enterprise was for some years unremunerative, but during the second half of the 18th century, when improved machinery had been introduced, the mine proved a little El Dorado, and yielded the proprietors from 12,000 to 20,000 yearly. The mines were finally closed in 1804. The mounds of white sparry debris, looking like acres of, snow, have been sifted again and again for ore, and the remains are now carted away for use in the maimfacture of glass and china.

Stubben Edge Hall is an ancient mansion one and a half miles south-cast from Ashover. The hall, with a considerable portion of land, formerly belonged to the family of Crich, but in the reign of Elizabeth it became the property of William Dakeyne, who married the widow of William Criche. Cornelius Criche, the last of the family, died, in reduced circumstances, in 1789, at the age of 102, and is buried in the chancel of the church. William Dakeyne married for his second wife, Katherine Strange, maid of honour to Mary Queen of Scots, whom she attended on the scaffold. There is a tablet in Ashover Church to several members of this family, headed by "Gulielm . Dakeyn . Norroy." But it does not appear that William Dalceyn ever held the position of Norroy King-at-Arms of the Herald's College; another William Dakeyn, grandson of the above, was apprehended by warrant for issuing false pedigrees and grants of arms. The estate remained in the possession of this family till 1720, when Frances, only daughter and heiress of Arthur Dakeyn, married William Hopkinson, of Bonsall. It subsequently passed through various hands to the Milneses, and was purchased from the Exors. of the late William Milnes, in 1874, by J. P. Jackson, Esq., J.P., the present owner.

Kelstedge is a hamlet one-and-a-quarter miles north-west from Ashover. Here is the large saw and turning mills of Cundy Brothers. Alton is a village one mile north-east. In the neighbourhood are several gritstone quarries.


This document was kindly provided by Mr. Philip Spray.