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High Peak Legends & Curio's


This ballad was recorded in 1861, by Mr William Bennett, ESQ. of Chapel-en-le-Frith. Author of the ‘King of the Peak’ and ‘The Cavalier’.

The Ballad now have the pleasure of presenting will appear a little modernised to some, who have only heard the tale from the mouths of unsober toppers, accustomed to the use of ancient provincial and obsolete words, which would not only render the sense less distinguishable, but also mar the flow of the rhythm. I confess, therefore, to having taken some liberties with the grammar, the orthography, and the metre; but in all other respects, I have strictly adhered to the original: and my honesty in this respect will be recognized and admitted by many persons to whom these minstrels relics are precious.*

The legend is still so strong in the Peak that numbers of the inhabitants do not concur in the sensible interpretation put upon the phantom by the butcher’s wife, but pertinaciously believe that the drunken man was beset by an evil spirit, which either ran by his horse’s side or rolled on the ground before him faster than his horse could gallop, from Peak Forest to the sacred enclosure of Tideswell Churchyard, where it disappeared; and many a bold fellow, on a moonlight night, looks anxiously around as he crosses Tideswell Moor, and gives his nag an additional touch of the spur as he hears the bell of Tideswell Church swinging midnight to the winds, and remembers the tale of “The Drunken Butcher of Tideswell” -

Oh, list to me, ye yeoman all,
Who live in dale or down!
My song is of a Butcher tall,
Who lived in Tiddeswall town.
In bluff King Harry’s merry days,
He slew both sheep and kine;
And drank his fill of nut-brown ale,
In lack of good red wine.

Beside the church this butcher lived,
Close to its grey old walls;
And envied not when trade was good,
The Baron in his halls.
No carking cares disturbed his rest,
When oft to bed he slunk;
And oft he snored for ten good hours,
Because he got so drunk.

One only sorrow quelled his heart,
As well it might quell mine -
The fear of sprites and grisly ghosts,
Which dance in the moonshine;
Or wander in the cold churchyard,
Among the dismal tombs;
Where hemlock blossoms in the day,
By night the nightshade blooms.

It chanced upon a summer’s day,
When heather-bells were blowing,
Bold Robin crossed o’er Tiddeswall Moor,
And heard the heath-cock crowing:
Well mounted on a forest nag,
He freely rode and fast ;
Nor drew a rein till Sparrow Pit,
And Paislow Moss was past.

Then slowly down the hill he came,
To the Chapelle-en-le-Frith,
Where at the Rose of Lancaster,
He found his friend the Smith:
The parson and the pardoner too,
They took their morning draught;
And when they spied a brother near,
They all came out and laughed.

”Now draw thy rein, thou jolly Butcher;
How far has thou to ride?”
”To Waylee-Bridge, to Simon the Tanner,
To sell this good cow-hide.”
”Thou shalt not go one foot ayont,
Till thou light and sup with me;
And when thou’st emptied my measure of liquor,
I’ll have a measure wi’ thee.”

”Oh no, oh no, thou drouthy Smith!
I cannot tarry to-day:
The wife she gave me a charge to keep;
And I durst not say her nay.”
”What likes o’ that, said parson then,
If thou’st sworn, thou’st ne’er to rue:
Thou may’st keep thy pledge, and drink thy stoup,
As an honest man e’en may do.”

”Oh no, oh no, thou jolly Parson!
I cannot tarry, I say;
I was drunk last night, and if I tarry,
I’se be drunk again to-day.”
”What likes, what likes! Cried the pardoner then,
Why tellest thou that to me?
Thou may’st e’en get thee drunk this blessed night;
And well shrived for both thou shalt be.”

Then down got the Butcher from his horse,
I wot full fain was he;
And he drank till the summer sun was set,
In that jolly company:
He drank till the summer sun went down,
And the stars began to shine;
And his greasy noddle was dazed and addle,
With the nut-brown ale and wine.

They up arose those four mad fellows;
And joining hand in hand,
They danced around the hostel floor,
And swung tho’ they scarce could stand,
We’ve aye been drunk on yester night;
And drunk the night before;
And we were drunk again to-night,
If we never get drunk any more.

Bold Robin the Butcher was horsed and away;
And a drunken wight was he;
For sometimes his blood-red eyes saw double;
And then he could scantly see.
The forest trees seemed to featly dance,
As he rode so swift along;
And the forest trees to his wildered sense,
Re-sang the jovial song.

Then up he sped over Paislow Moss,
And down by the Chamber Knowle:
And there he was scared into mortal fear
By the hooting of a barn owl:
And on he rode by the Forest Wall,
Where the deer browsed silently;
And up the slack till on Tiddeswall Moor,
His horse stood fair and free.

Just then the moon from behind the rack,
Burst out into open view;
And on the sward and purple heath
Broad light and shadow threw;
And there the Butcher, whose heart beat quick,
With fear of Gramarye,
Fast by his side, as he did ride,
A foul phantom did espy.

Up rose the fell of his head, uprose
The hood which his head did shroud;
And all his teeth did chatter and girn,
And he cried both long and loud;
And his horse’s flanks with his spur he struck,
As he never had struck before;
And away he galloped with might and main,
Across the barren moor.

But ever as fast as the Butcher rode,
The Ghost did grimly glide:
Now down on the earth before his horse,
Then fast his rein beside:
O’er stock and rock and stone and pit,
O’er hill and dale and down,
Till Robin the Butcher gained his door-stone,
In Tiddeswall’s good old town.

”Oh, what thee ails, thou drunken Butcher?”
Said his wife as he sank down:
”And what thee ails, thou drunken Butcher?”
Cried one half of the Town.
”I have seen a ghost; it hath raced my horse,
For three good miles and more;
And it vanished within the Churchyard wall,
As I sank down at the door.”

”Beshrew thy heart for a drunken beast!”
Cried his Wife, as she held him there;
Beshrew thy heart for a drunken beast,
And a coward with heart of hare.
No ghost hath raced they horse to-night;
Nor evened his wit with thine:
The Ghost was thy shadow, thou drunken wretch!
I would the ghost were mine!”

I too, have made some minor adjustment, in as far as using the modern form of ‘s’


The bells were always rung in commendation of the following events, viz - Martyrdom of King Charles I., the 30th of January, the bells being muffled on one side, and the ringing commencing on the evening before. For the Restoration on the 29th of May, when it was also the ringers' duty to adorn the church tower and porch with branches of oak: the birthday of King George III., the 4th of June : the 5th of November, and the evening before. They also ring the Old Year out and the New Year in; and Pancake bell still warns the busy housewife on Shrove Tuesday, that it is eleven o'clock and time to begin the frying. At eight every evening, except Saturdays and Sum days, when it is at seven o'clock, the curfew sounds over hill and dale reminding us of our Norman vassalage now happily so long gone by.
The parish clerk is responsible for tolling at these hours, and on him devolves by special custom the duty of ringing the " Sermon Bell," a few minutes before Divine Service. This is the bell tolling which according to the strict letter of the law the officiating minister should himself perform, but the ringers now receive an annual sum from the Incumbent, for relieving the clerk from this portion of his duties.
The extra fees for ringing on public occasions were 6s, per day; but on the 29th May a further fee of 2s. for placing the oak. On the 5th November the fee was 15s. and a goose at the Bull's Head Inn.

By Henry Kirke. 1869.


In the High Peak, about half way between the villages of Hope and Castleton, by the roadside, stood a spital house or hospital, dedicated to the honour of St. Mary, which was founded for certain infirm poor of the district. There is no doubt that it was of early establishment, but of its exact history little can now be learnt. William of Worcester, who traversed Derbyshire in 1478, says that the hospital house of the Peak was founded per uxorem domini Peverelle, meaning thereby the wife of William Peverel, the reputed illegitimate son of the Conqueror.

In 1394, John, duke of Lancaster, confirmed the grant of William Peverel, formerly lord of the High Peak, by which he gave to the warden of the hospital of the Blessed Mary of Castleton in the Peak pasture for a mare and its foals, and eight oxen, at all seasons of the year, and for a sow with its litter during the season of pannage in the pasture of Tydale. The grant further provides that every warden of the hospital shall be a chaplain and celebrate divine service continually therein.

Richard de Creyk, warden of the hospital of St. Mary, Castleton, formed one of the suite who accompanied Queen Philippa on her journey to France in 1338, and we may suppose it to have been due to his influence that in January, 1342-3, Queen Philippa granted in frankalmoin for the honour of God and Mary His mother, to Richard Whetton, warden of the hospital of St. Mary, Castleton in the High Peak, 60s. of rent due to her by Nicholas atte Forde, out of lands in Blackbrook, Chapel-en-le-Frith, and elsewhere, towards the sustenance of a chaplain to celebrate divine services daily in the chapel of the hospital, which grant Edward III confirmed in July of the same year. This hospital was valued in 1377 at £3, and four bushels of oatmeal per annum

In 1377, Richard II granted to Thomas Brounflete, one of the royal clerks, the custody of this house, therein termed the hospital of Peak Castle, which had been recently seized into the king's hands by the escheator of the county of Derby, to hold the same from the date of seizure so long as it remained in the king's hands, without rendering aught therefor, provided that he supported the burdens of the hospital during his custody.
In 1454 Robert Nedeham who had had a grant of the hospital of Castleton for life from Henry VI surrendered his letters patent to the intent that Queen Margaret might appoint Thomas Ragg, chaplain, to whom she accordingly granted the post, stipulating that he should keep the buildings in good repair and be perpetually resident.

On 6 July, 1527 Henry VIII, a grant was made by the king to Humphrey Stafford, esq., and Nicholas Borde and Ralph Bradbury, gentlemen, of the profits, advowson, or presentation and collation of warden of the Spittelhouse of the High Peak, in the same way as George Savage, clerk, had held it, when vacant through death or resignation; to be held per se or otherwise on condition of mass and other divine suffrages being celebrated four times a year for the king's good estate and for the souls of the founders. The grantees, however, had some time to wait before enjoying this concession as, in 1542, George Savage was still keeper of the hospital of Castleton, in which capacity he complained to the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that whereas all previous masters were seised of a rent of 21s. 8d. from land called Blackbrook in the Frith, now held by William Lee of Eggynton, the said William, since the death of his father Richard Lee, refused to pay the said rent.

In the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 there is a special entry under 'Hospital de Spyttelhowse in Alt' Peke in Com' Derb.'' It there states that at an inquisition held at Tideswell on 6 May, before Edward Eyre, George Warnon (? Vernon), and George Barley, esq., it was said on oath by divers honourable persons that the average annual income of the hospital or spittel house in the High Peak, between Castleton and Hope, was but 40s.

The hospital for some time before its disappearance seems to have served no other purpose but to provide a small income for a non-resident warden. The certificates of the last year of Henry VIII show that it possessed no goods, and that its income of 40s. a year had been granted by the king to one John Savage.

Masters or Wardens of St. Mary's In The Peak
William de Yelvercroft, occurs 1330
Richard de Creyk, occurs 1338
Richard Whetton, occurs 1342
John de Hermesthorp, appointed 1368
Thomas Brounflete, appointed 1377
Walter atte Grove, appointed 1380
John Allot, appointed 1409
John del Holme, occurs temp. Henry VI
Robert Nedeham, resigned 1454
Thomas Ragg, appointed 1454
George Savage, occurs 1536-42

Note: the involvement in the above of the local families - Bradbury, Needham & Stafford.
Excavation of the old Castleton hospital site












Castleton burials in the Spittal Field

Diggers at the hospital site 2012/13


The Honour and Forest of High Peak in the County of Derby, formed part of the immense possessions given by William the Conqueror to his bastard son William Peverel, who built, or re-built, the castle at Castleton, and altered its name from " the Hope," or strong-hold of the Dale, to the Castle, or " Peverel's place in the Peke," as it was usually called afterwards He also changed the name of the beautiful valley in which the castle stands from " Hope Dale '' to " la Champagne,'' but in a few generations the Peverels were driven from the country and the valley resumed its Saxon appellation, which it still bears. The following statement of the boundaries of the forest is taken from an ancient document in the possession of the Norfolk family, and is no doubt correct. " It beginneth at the head of the river Goyte and so down to the river Edewe, and so to a place called Ladycross at Longdendale, and from Longdendale head to the head of the river Derwent, and so to a place called Masham Ford, and so to Bradwell Brook and to the Great Cave
of Hazelbage and from thence by Poynton Cross to Tideswell Brook, and so down to the river Wye, and so ascending up the river Wye to Buxton Town, and from thence to the head of Goyte again. This circuit would give about sixty miles in circumference; but it comprehended several manors, which appear to have been held direct from the king in capite, I, though within the honour and forest. The parish of Chapel-en-le-Frith (comprising the three edges or townships of Bowdon Edge, Bradshaw Edge, and Combs Edge) was within the honour; but Bowdon Edge, or Bowdon Manor, was one of the manors, which held of the crown in chief, and the Lord was therefore to a certain extent independent of the lord of the honour. The Normans were more successful in giving a semi-French appellation to the town of Chapel-en-le-Frith, which had previously been called Bowdon Chapel; but a struggle existed for centuries whether it should retain its original name or adopt that given to it by its feudal lords. Within the last three centuries the town is called Bowdon Chapel in various deeds and documents pertaining to property there, although in public records it is always called the Kings Town of Chapel-en-le-Frith.
The name Chapel-en-le-Frith, about the meaning of which there appears to be some controversy, signifies simply the Chapel in the Wood. The word frith is derived from the Saxon " Frid," i.e., pax.
The English Saxons held woods to be sacred and therefore made them sanctuaries, and called a wood frid or faith. In fact the religious rites of both the heathen Britons and Saxons were performed in the woods and thereby they were invested with a sacred character.
We do not intend to give in detail the history if the Peverels. The materials are very scanty for such a purpose; but there is sufficent historical information to show us that they were a mighty race, partaking of the good and bad qualities of their sire and their countrymen. They were wise in council, brave in combat, audacious in enterprise and indomitable in war. But the fair side of their character is counterpoised by cruelty ambition, and social depravity, which was the ultimate cause of their ruin and exile from England. They founded religious houses-they fought the battles of their country.
In the Battle of the Standard with the Scots, in the reign of King Stephen, William Peverel the third was one of the leaders who won that well fought field.
The castle of Nottingham (which, with many manor and villages in Nottinghamshire, was another part of the appanage of the Peverels) was, it is believed, their principal seat; but they not unfrequently made their place in the Peak their abode for the enjoyment of hunting and field sports. The forest of High Peak was, long after the exile of the Peverels, frequently resorted to by the Norman sovereigns and their successors for the pleasures of the chase, of which they were passionately fond. The Rev. Mr. Ridgway (to whose family the state of Gorsy-low, in the King's Herbage of Chinley or Mainstonefield, about a mile from Chapel-en-le-Frith, belonged within the last sixty or seventy years), in his book called the Gem of Thorney Island, says (in writing of Edward the First). It is erroneously stated in many histories that Edward was on his way to Scotland when the news of his queen's illness reached him; but it is evident from the Chronicles and State Papers that such was not the case. No mention is made of his intention of visiting Scotland at that time. He seems not to have been as far north as the Humber, but to have been engaged in the pastime of hunting in various parts of Derbyshire. The State Records in Rymer's Fœders, are dated from various places in that locality. At Chapel-en-le-Frith one is signed; and there is a tradition in the author's family that he was entertained at the family estate of Gorsy-low (one mile from Chapel-en-le-Frith), and that the object of his visit was the excitement of the chase, not of war. Gorsy-low was a feudal tenure held by the same family from the Conquest to the present generation.''
The old names of places within the forest still prevail and designate the particular species of game or wild animal for which they were famous. Wildboar Clough and Pig Tor show the resort of the fiercest brute known to the hunter; Wolfs Hope and Wolf's Cote are the places among the rocks where the wolf had his lair; Martinside and Cat's Tor were the places of refuge of the beautiful mart or marten cat, which has been found in a wild state within the last forty years among the solitary rocks of the Roych Clough; Fox Holes, at one side of Eccles Pike, and Roeside at the other, tell us of the kind of animal for which they were reputed ; and Brockholes and Otterholes speak of the badger and the otter. All the animals of chase have left the forest except the timid hare and the rock fox, which in sometimes but very rarely seen. The moors, of which there are many thousands of acres, are perhaps, more than in old times, tenanted by grouse, and occasionally the eagle appears among the wild rocks and solitudes of Kinder Scout. Little more, if any, than thirty years ago two golden eagles of large size were taken on the Scout. One was shot, but the other was captured alive, and kept in the neighbourhood for some time. It was a magnificent bird, and was covered with golden plumage in the most perfect and beautiful order.
Those who are acquainted with north Derbyshire will member that the road from Castleton to Chapel-en-le-Frith is commenced by a very steep ascent of nearly two miles in length up the side of the mountain called Mam Tor. The road is carried up a height of a thousand or twelve hundred feet by means of zigzags, which eventually land you on the flat of Rushop Edge, where you find a valley surrounded by hills of considerable elevation. To the south are Eldon (i.e., Helldon, the hill of the pit), Perry Hill, and Gautriss; and on the north, separating Rushop Edge from the sublime valley of Edale, runs a long line of mountain called the " Lord's Seat '' which in the days of the Peverels was the station of the Grand Seigneur when he thought fit to quit his horse and watch the progress of the hunt at his ease.
The view from it is magnificent, perhaps one of the finest in north Derbyshire, as from its summit you may see the Pennine chain of Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Staffordshire, with many of the lovely valleys which lie among the hills. Westward, you look down upon the valley of Chapel-en-le-Frith, the eastern part of which contains the ancient manor of Bowdon. To realise the following ballad my readers must imagine the Lord of the Peak, William Peverel, with a number of his knights and gentlemen, on the Lord's Seat,
preparing for the chase when they hear the bugle blast which informs the proud baron that some audacious sportsmen are in chase of the deer within his forest. We may picture to ourselves the astonishment and indignation of the Norman prince, and his fierce determination to pounce upon the trespassers and punish them with all the severity of the cruel forest law. Well was it for all parties that he was attended by Ms brother Payne Peverel, the lord of Whittington, who was one of the noblest sons of chivalry, and whose presence prevented an affray which in all probability would have been fatal to many. Payne Peverel had previous to this time exhibited a grand pageant at Castleton, accompanied by a tournament held in the meadows below the castle when he gave away his daughter to the knight who most distinguished himself on that occasion. A diligent archaeologist would in all probability be able to gather some tradition, metrical or otherwise, of this tournament, which surpassed any other scene ever displayed in this county, and a notice of which ought to appear in the reliquary.


Lord Peverel stood on the Lord's Seat,
And an angry man was he;
For he heard the sound of a hunter's horn
Slow winding up the lea.
He look'd to north, he look'd to south,
And east and west look'd he:
And " Holy cross! "the fierce Norman cried,"
Who hunts in my country?

Belike they think the Peverel dead
Or far from forest walk;
Woe worth their hunting, they shall find
Abroad is still the Hawk."
Again he looked where Helldon Hill
Joins with the Konying's Dale;
And then once more the bugle blast
Came swelling along the gale.

"Mount, mount and ride!'' the baron cried,
"The sound comes o'er the Edge,
By Perry dale, or Gautriss side,
My knightly spurs I pledge.
These outlaws, who now drive my deer,
Shall sooth our quarry be;
And he who reaches first the hounds
Shall win a guerdon free."

Each knight and squire soon sat in selle,
And urged his horse to speed,
And Peverel, first among the rout,
Proved his horse good at need.
Adown the slope, along the flat,
Against the hill they ride,
Nor pull a rein till every steed
Stands fast on Gautriss side.

" Hold hard! They're here," the Peverel said,
And upward held his hand,
While all his meany kept behind
Awaiting their lord's command;
And westward, on the Bolt-edge Moor,
Beyond the rocky height,
Both hounds and hunters, men and horse,
And deer were all in sight.

Said then the baron, " Who are these
Who fear not Peverel's sword
Nor forest laws," Outspoke a squire,
" Of Bowdon he's the lord:
Sir Bruno, hight, a Franklin brave,
One of the Saxon swine
Who feasts each day on fat fed beef,
And guzzles ale, not wine.

" What stirs the sodden-headed knave
To make his pastime here?''
Cried Peverel, " and thus dare to brave
Him whom the king doth fear?
Ride down the villains, horse and man;
Would we were armed to-day,
No Saxon chine should bear its head
Forth from the bloody fray."

Up spoke his frere, Payne Peverel, then,
Of Whittington lord was he,
And said, " Fair sir, for ruth and grace
This slaughter may not be.
The Saxon's lands are widely spread,
And he holds them in capité,
And claims three days with hawk and hound
To wind his bugle free."

" Beshrew his horn, and beshrew his heart,
In my forest he may not ride:
If he kills a deer, by the conqueror's bow
By forest law he shall bide.
Ride on, Sir Payne, and tell the churl
He must cease his hunting cheer,
And come to the knee of his suzerain lord
Awaiting his presence here.

Ride with him, sirs, some two or three,
And bring him hither straight:
Twere best for him to come at once
Than cause his lord to wait.
There are trees in the forest strong enow
To bear the madman's corse,
And he shall hang on the highest bough
If hither he comes perforce."

Sir Payne rode swiftly cross the dale,
Followed by gentles three,
Nor stayed his horse till he had reached
The hunters company:
And then he said, " Fair sirs ye ride
And drive our deer as free
As if the land were all your own
And not in forestry.

Lord Peverel yonder waits your ease,
To know how this may be;
Since he is lord of the forest wide,
And will no trespass see.
He bids you, as your suzerain lord,
Forthwith to come to his knee,
And as his liegeman humbly stand,
And answer him truthfully.''

" No man of his," cried the Franklin, " then
Am I, as he knows full well,
Though within the bounds of his forest walk
It likes me sooth to dwell.
My manor of Bowdon I hold in chief
From good King Harry I trow;
And to him alone will I homage pay
And make my fealty vow."

" Beware Sir Franklin,'' cried Sir Payne,
" Beware how thou play the fool!
To brave the ire of thy suzerain lord
Will lead to direful dule.
Come on with me, and make thy peace,
Better do that than worse;
He'll hang thee on the forest tree
If we take thee hence perforce."

" Take me you can't, while I have thews,
And these have bows and spears,"
Cried the brave Franklin. " Threaten him
Who the Lord Peverel fears.
We've broke no forest law to-day;
Our hunting here's my right;
And only ye can force me hence
If strongest in the fight."

Each hunter then upraised his spear,
Or twanged his good yew bow,
While cloth yard shafts from every sheaf
Glinted a threatening shew.
And back Payne Peverel reined his horse,
And, as he rode away,
Cried, " Fare ye well, this day of sport
Will breed a bloody day.''

Well was it for the Saxons then
The Normans rode unarmed,
Or they had scantly left that field
And homeward gone unharmed.
Lord Peverel viewed their bows and spears,
And marked their strong array,
And grimly smiled, and softly said,
" We'll right this wrong some day."

But e'er that day, for fearful crime
The Peverel fled the land,
And lost his pride of place, and eke
His lordship and command.
For Ranulph Earl of Chester's death,
By him most foully wrought,
He fled fair England's realm for aye,
And other regions sought.

Where, so ‘tis writ, a monk he turned,
And penance dreed so sore,
That all the holy brotherhood
Quailed at the pains he bore.
And yet the haughty Norman blood
No sign of dolour showed;
But bore all stoutly to the last,
And died beneath the rood.

So Heaven receive his soul at last,
He was a warrior brave;
And Pope and priest were joined in mass
His guilty soul to save.
For Holy Church and Kingly Crown
He was ever a champion true;
For chivalry and ladies grace
Chiváler foiál et preux.

By William Bennett, ESQ. 1867


In a book published upwards of half-a-century ago, called " Hutchinson's Tour though the Peak of Derbyshire subsequently in " Tales and Traditions of the High Peak," by the late Mr. William Wood, of Eyam, and lately by Mr. Llewellynn Jewitt, the Editor of the " Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire," in that publication, an account is given of a skull, or the remains of a skull, preserved in a farm-house at Tunstead Milton, in the parish of Chapel-en-le-Frith. Mr. Wood entitles the paper he wrote upon it, " The Miraculous Skull, or Dickey of Tunstead;" and he and Mr. Jewitt relate various instances of preternatural interposition, which have been attributed to this decayed relic of mortality.
How far consistently with truth we shall not attempt to discover; but it is quite consistent with veracity to say, that the prestige of the skull still continues amongst inhabitant of the neighbouring hamlets and farm-houses and to some extent throughout the parish: and if the country people may be believed, " Dickey '' (as he is still called), has by no means waned in his powers of good or evil influence, but has assumed to deal with matters on a large scale, and of too great importance for the interference of any but a ruling spirit. We shall only give one instance of his potential influence (to which Mr. Jewitt had breezy added), and leave the public to determine how far the skull is entitled to the credit of it. The newly formed line of the Stock- port, New Mills, and Whaley Bridge (Buxton Extension) Railway passes through the land belonging to the farm-house where the skull is deposited, and had to cross the Coombs valley to the Chapel-en-le-Frith station by a high embankment, and an archway over the highway.
The embankment was formed, and a stately arch erected; but they were not out of the hands of the contractor before the arch rapidly sank into the earth, its walls were riven and dislocated and the ground at each end of the archway thrown up into large mounds. Every effort was made to overcome the difficulty and restore the fabric, and a very large amount was expended for that purpose, but without avail.
Either the ground was naturally a quicksand which swallowed up all the material or (according to the neighbourhood), Dickey would not have the archway in that position. The Railway Company and contractors battled with the malign power a long time, but were eventually obliged to give way, and not only remove their bridge to some distance, but form a new highway at a great expense for upwards of a quarter-of-a-mile. When this alteration (which made a new and very handsome road into the Coombs) was completed, Dickey appears to have been appeased; and the new road and bridge stand a proud monument of his engineering taste and determined opposition to the erection of the bridge upon a swamp, which might have endangered the safety of the Queen's lieges. We cannot help thinking, however, that the Railway Company would have been better satisfied if he had remained quiet in the chimney-corner.
It seems that there are various traditions with respect to the former owner of this death's head. Hutchinson and Wood say that it belonged to one of two co-heiresses who resided at Tunstead several centuries ago, and who was murdered there, and declared in her dying moments that her bones should remain on the place for ever; but they seem to have had no great faith in the tradition, as Hutchinson qualifies his statement by saying, " but what has not been said about it that is not pure fiction" to which remark Wood silently assents. For our own part we not only think that the sex of the owner of Dickey's head is determined by his traditionary name, but the information we have obtained, after considerable enquiry, tends to show that the ghost's name " Dickey," is a corruption of the surname Dickson, which has belonged to the owners of the place for many generations. According to the re- searches of some not unlearned antiquaries, and the information we have been able to gather from various sources, the most faithful history of " Dickey '' is contained in the following ballad, which we have thought worthy of preservation in the pages of the " RELIQUARY."
We do not intend to swear to its authenticity. We " tell the tale as 'twas told to us; '' and we wish every tale of similar interest had as solid a foundation for its support. We are enable to give names and dates of persons and transactions, and the names, features, and historical or traditionary facts relating to the beautiful country which is the scene of the ballad. We can do no more, and hope our readers will be satisfied with our full, true, and particular account. If they are not, we can't help it, and beg to suggest that they will come to Tunstead Milton, which overhangs that picturesque sheet of water (ninety acres in extent) called the Coombs Lake, and examine the skull for themselves, which no doubt will afford them great edification.

Ned Dickson's a yeoman right Derbyshire bred,
That's strong in the arm, and weak in the head:
He's gone for a soldier across the salt sea,
To serve Henri-quatre with Lord Willoughby.

And now a bold trooper Ned Dickinson doth ride,
With pistol in holster, and sword by his side,
With back plate, and breast plate of glittering steel,
And a plume in his morion and spur on his heel.

At Ivry he fought in the Huguenot war,
And followed the white plume of him of Navarre;
Of Henri le Roi when he burst like a flood
Through the ranks of the Leaguers in glory and blood.

Hurrah now for Henry and Lord Willoughby!
Hurrah for old England, the Pride of the Sea!
Her pikemen, her bowmen, her cavalry too,
Shew the Leaguers what Englishmen's prowess can do.

Where the battle was hottest, Ned Dickson was there,
And spurred hard his charger the honour to share;
Three times did he rescue brave Lord Willoughby,
When struck down from his horse in that famous melêe.

At length the bold trooper was wounded so sore,
That he fell from his charger, all covered with gore:
All night on the field in his blood did he lie,
And thought on his home and the summons to die.

But death did not come, he was found yet alive;
Though his comrades believed he could never survive,
His wounds were examined, the surgeon's best art
Was exerted to save such a valorous heart.

And his life was preserved; but his strength was all gone,
He rode not, he walked not, he stood not alone:
His battles were finished, his glory was o'er;
All ended war's pageant, he must see it no more.

Then homeward he wended across the blue sea,
And stood on the shore of his naive country;
But so wasted in body, so ghastly and wan,
No friend would have known Ned the winsome young man.

He got to his homestead at Tunstead Milltown,
Where the Derbyshire hills on the valleys look down:
Old Kinder he saw in the distance appear,
And Chinley and South-head and Colbourne draw near.

Eccles Pike too, and Coombs, on whose bold rocky head,
The Roman his rampart in old time had spread,
Now lay all around him; his eye glistened bright,
As he slowly surveyed each familiar sight.

Then he entered the house, and his cousin was there,
Who if Ned should die, would become his sole heir:
He stood but no word of kind welcome had he;
And at last said, " It seems Jack thou knowest not me."

" Who art thou? I know thee not," answered the man,
While his dark eye the soldier did hastily scan.
" Why I am Ned Dickson, your kinsman I trow,
Come back from the wars, to the flail and the plough."

"" My cousin, Ned Dickson! thou liest he cried,
He's killed in the wars as is well certified:
Moreover Ned Dickson was comely to view,
And thou'rt but a lath that the wind would blow through."

" Natheless, I'm Ned Dickson, Jack Johnson," he said,
"Though wounded full sorely, thoul't find I'm not dead;
And this is my homestead, and thou art my man,
And these lands are my lands, deny it who can."

" Say'st thou so, Cousin Ned! Well I think it be thee:
After all that we've heard it thou'rt dead over sea;
But, mass, thou art changed man, nay, prithee don't stand,
But take thine old coach-chair, and give us thine hand."

Then Johnson and wife were right fain of their coz;
He shook Dickson's hand, and she gave him a bus;
And soon came good eating and drinking to boot;
Till at length they had compassed the length of Ned's Foot.

Night drew on apace, and they got him to bed,
John carried his feet, and his wife held his head;
He had the best chamber, with rushes all strewn,
And through the closed casement he gazed at the moon.

Not long did he gaze ere he fell fast asleep,
While his kinsfolk outside close vigils did keep:
They heard his long snore, and they entered the room,
In silence and darkness, and death was his doom.

They strangled the soldier, as helpless he lay,
And carried him outward before it was day:
In the paddock hard by they buried him deep,
And thought how securely their cousin would sleep.

And their cousin did sleep for awhile, and no word
Of his death, or his absence the murderers heard.
All people believed he was killed in the fight;
And Jack Johnson is heir to his land and his right.

But a year had not passed when one winterly night,
That the storm rack was hiding the moon from their sight:
Honest Jack and his helpmate cowered over the lum,
His visage was sad and her clacker was dumb.

" What's that i' the nook, John ? '' she suddenly cried,
And shaking with terror they clearly espied;
The head of Ned Dickson upright on the stone,
As wan and as ghastly as when he was done.

Many years passed away and the murderers fell,
By just retribution as ancient folk tell;
By a blow from her husband the woman was killed,
By the fall of an oak was Jack Johnson's blood spilled.

But the head of Ned Dickson still stood in the nook,
Though they tried to remove it by bell and by book;
Though wasted of skin and of flesh, still the skull
Will remain at its post till its weird be at full.

By William Bennett, ESQ. 1868


A severe cattle plaque, or " pestilence amongst the horned cattle," raged in England from 1745 to 1755. The distemper was supposed to have been introduced into England from Holland by means of two white cows, which a farmer at Poplar sent for to improve his breed.
By October, 1745, it had spread thence into Surrey. Kent, Essex. Berkshire, and Bedfordshire; few of the farmers " saving more than one in five of the cattle that have been taken, but most having lost their whole stock."
An Act was passed in February, 1745-6, authorising the Privy Council to take necessary measures for the abatement and suppression of the plague. On March 12th, 1746, the Privy Council ordered diseased beasts to be shot, and their skins destroyed: granting moderate compensation. But the disorder continued to rage in one part or other of the country for nearly ten years from the time of the first outbreak. It gradually passed northwards, and on January 15th 1746-7, it was ordered that no cattle should pass from the south across the Humber and Trent.
In April, 1747, the plague had reached Derbyshire. By the beginning of September, it was estimated that 40,000 head of cattle had died in the three counties of Derby, Nottingham, and Lincoln.
At the Epiph Sessions, 1748-9, inspectors of horned cattle were appointed for the county of Derby, to be paid at a rate not exceeding one shilling per day when on duty.
Just a year later, the matter came again before the court, when the good effects of putting the laws for checking the distemper into force were demonstrated, and that where they had been disobeyed or laxly enforced, the evil had spread from herd to herd.
It was established that the plague had been brought into the hundred of High Peak by carrying of hides, horns, hoofs, and bones of infected cattle through the county.
Complaint was also made that various farmers had refused to kill their cattle, or to give proper notice of disease to the Inspectors. The justices, therefore, resolved to adopt more stringent precautions, and appointed all the several petty constables, overseers of poor, and churchwardens of the whole of the townships of the county of Derby inspectors under the Act, and they were enjoined to be very careful and diligent in the execution of their office.

Specially qualified inspections were also appointed for Glossop and Chapel-en-le-Frith, who were to stop all carriage of horns, hides, etc, through the county.
No fair nor market for any sort of horned cattle was to be held anywhere in Derbyshire until further order, and no horned cattle were to cross Swarkeston bridge or Wilne ford one way or the other.

At the Trans. Sessions, 1750, Samuel Dury printer, was ordered to print three hundred copies of the Act of Parliament for prevention of distemper.

At Mich. Sessions, 1751, fairs and markets for horned cattle were again prohibited throughout the county. Notice to this effect was ordered to be issued in the General Evening Post and in the Derby and Nottingham Mercuries, whilst other notices were to be distributed throughout Derbyshire by the clerk of the peace. A like order was made by the court at Easter, 1752.
It was ordered, at the Epiph. Sessions, 1752-3 that the constable of Winshill have notice that he be very diligent in obliging people in his jurisdiction to bury their cattle that die in the infection, according to the King's order in Council. This is the last entry that I have noticed amongst the orders upon this subject.

So grave did the situation become that in 1748, the following prayer was ordered to be used in the churches of England and Wales " every day, on occasion of the present mortality among the cattle":-

" O gracious God, who, in Thy great Bounty to Mankind, hast given them the Beasts of the Field for their Provision and Nourishment continue to us, we humbly beseech thee, this Blessing, and suffer us not to be reduced to Scarcity and Distress by the contagious Distemper, which has raged, and still rages, among the Cattle in may parts of this Kingdom. In this and all other thy Dispensations towards us, we see and adore the Justice of thy Providence and do with sorrowful and penitent hearts confess, that our manifold Vices and Impieties have deservedly provoked thine anger and Indignation against us. But we earnestly entreat Thee, Almighty Father, in this our calamitous State, to look down upon us with an Eye of Pity and Compassion; and, if it be Thy blessed will, to forbid the spreading of this sore Visitation, and, in Thy good time to remove it from all the Inhabitants of this Land, for the sake of thy mercies in Christ Jesus our only Saviour and Redeemer. Amen."


"Ford Hall at this time (1758) required some substantial repairs, which were commenced during his (Colonel Bagshawes) absence in London by 'taking off the battlements' of the house and lowering them 'into the court', as Mr. Evatt duly informed him. Preparations for planting were also begun with much vigour. Captain Morgan kindly promised all the acorns that could be gathered at Stanton Woodhouse, and large orders for young trees were despatched in various directions. The process of holing the ground was, however, considerably retarded by the remains of 'a set causeway', which gave the gardeners great trouble, and is conjectured to have been the pavement of a Roman road".

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