Tag Archives: Chesterfield

Murder in church – Derbyshire style.

It is starting to amaze me just how often Derbyshire is turning up in the footnotes of History in my reading at the moment.  Take the murder that occurred in St Mary’s Church, Chesterfield for example – and yes, that is the church with the twisted spire that legend blames on Old Nick but History blames on lack of skilled workmen following the Black Death.

Anyway, my story involves Ralph Cromwell, Henry VI’s Lord Treasurer (in a roundabout way), his henchman and his henchman’s enemies. Cromwell whose main residence was Tattershall castle in Lincolnshire expanded into Derbyshire via the manors of Tibshelf and South Wingfield (more commonly associated with Mary Queen of Scots these days).  His ownership of the aforementioned manors was contested by Sir Henry Pierrepoint (or Pierpoint) from Nottinghamshire. Castor explores the resulting factions in The King, The Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster and concludes that the Lancaster Affinity had split along geographical lines as well as personal ones.

Pierrepoint tried to build up his lands around Chesterfield which resulted in the enmity of Thomas Foljambe of Walton.  The Foljambes had been the leading family in Chesterfield for rather a long time and weren’t keen on yielding their position.  Consequentially when Pierrepoint leased the Manor of Chesterfield from the countess of Kent things were set to become grim.  Even worse the countess let Pierrepoint run the annual and no doubt very lucrative annual fair.

Foljambe sent in his thugs to disrupt the fair.  The countess prepared to take him to court. Foljambe blamed Pierrepoint to the extent that he took a bloody revenge on new Years Day 1434 – and remember New Year’s day was deemed to be in March.

First Foljambe nobbled the parish clerk – a man named Thomas Mogynton.  Mogynton’s jobs were two fold.  He was ordered to lock possible ways of escape from the church and secondly to ring the bells to summon Foljambe and his men.

The accounts vary as to the number of attackers – but let’s just say Foljambe arrived with sufficient men to kill all of Pierrepoint’s party – Henry Longford, William Bradshaw and Thomas Hasilby who were there to hear Mass.  Pierrepoint left half his men outside the church so that Pierrepoint’s men couldn’t escape and then when Moygnton rang the bell he entered with the other half of his men with their weapons drawn.

The vicar, Richard Dawson, tried to halt the bloodshed but he was ordered back to the altar.

Sir Henry lost the thumb and two fingers of his right hand making it impossible for him to fight. Meanwhile two of his companions were murdered.  Henry Longford was Pierrepoint’s  brother-in-law, as well as his squire. Only Hasilby escaped. Longford and Bradshaw died in the church. Pierrepoint was dragged from the church and was only spared when Richard Foljambe of Bonsall argued  for mercy.

Inevitably justice  for a double murder and a maiming was a protracted affair. There were two juries.  The second one, composed of Derbyshire gentry, was inclined to blame Pierrepoint for everything whilst the first one  composed of Pierrepoint’s friends and family tended to see things differently.

Somewhere along the way, before the first trial before a jury of Pierrepoint’s friends Foljambe had managed to acquire a dodgy lawyer who ensured that the indictment against Foljambe had the word “junior” after Foljambe’s name meaning that it was his ten-year-old son up on the charge: which even by the standards of the time was taking things a bit far. The same lawyer even presented the jury with a list of men who had taken part in the attack.  The only problem was that the jury noticed that the list was largely fictitious.

The matter was unresolved for twenty years – I bet there were some tense encounters during that time. In September 1454 – so at the time of Richard of York’s first protectorate, matters were finally dealt with. Foljambe and those of his men who were still alive found themselves incarcerated in the Marshalsea Prison to await trial. One of the men on the jury who put them there wasn’t entirely unbiased: Sir Henry Pierrepoint must have enjoyed himself enormously.

Unfortunately for my story the jigsaw piece of History that has disappeared down the back of the chronological sofa on this occasion is the trial and what happened next.  And there’s no picture because my pictures of Chesterfield Church are so old that the word digital wasn’t something that was associated with cameras!

Castor, Helen. (2000) The King, The Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster , 1399-1461 Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/pierrepont-sir-henry-1452

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Wars of the Roses

Wellingtonia on the doorstep.

Scotland_Forever!I’ve gone a bit off my usual tangent with this post in the spirit of waste not, want not.  I recently contacted a regional newspaper in the hope that they would want a regular history columnist.  It’s surprising the number of papers that do have a history slot including my favourite regional paper The Cumberland News which wins prizes on a regular basis.  What follows is my sample article which didn’t even merit a response from the editor several weeks ago – obviously I’m not doing something right.  So back to the drawing board and try again.

The two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo has sailed by. But who would have thought that Derbyshire had so many links with the Napoleonic Wars?

In Chesterfield a plaque bearing the legend 1816 above a scruffy looking red brick building marks the remnants of Griffin Foundry. It produced shot that was fired during the Napoleonic Wars, the way some local Chesterfield books tell it they produced the cannon shells that tore into the French forces on Sunday 18 June 1815.

In Ashbourne, French prisoners-of-war married local girls and provided the town with a recipe for very tasty gingerbread that’s still being made today in the same bakery where it was first produced.  The black and white Tudor building on St John’s Street has been a bakery for more than two hundred and fifty years.  By now the smell of newly baked bread must have seeped into the joists.

Both Chesterfield and Ashbourne parish churches contain the graves of French prisoners-of-war who didn’t make it home as well as a few British officers who did.  Elsewhere in Derbyshire there are tales of men who refused to be conscripted into Wellington’s army.

Along the A517 at Holbrook, William Leeke was once the vicar. There’s a window to him inside the church. His headstone, in the graveyard, reveals not only that he died aged eighty-one but also that in 1815 he carried his company colours into the battle. At the time he was seventeen-years-old. He served with the 52nd Regiment. As luck would have it he recorded his experiences but they are not always in accord with the official version of events. He was firmly of the opinion that it was the 52nd Regiment who beat off Napoleon’s Imperial Guards rather than the 1st British Guards. His account has caused a fair amount of controversy amongst historians over the years.

E.M. Wrench was another ex-soldier. In 1866, Doctor Wrench, raised the ten-foot high cross that stands on Baslow Edge, it’s outline stark against the sky and a magnet for walkers. Other monuments to the battle and its hero are rather leafier. There’s a Wellington Oak at Renishaw Hall.

EXHIBITION USE ONLY npg.896.1337Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1815-16 NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY MARKS 200th ANNIVERSARY OF WATERLOO WITH THE FIRST EXHIBITION ON THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington will open at the National Portrait Gallery, to mark the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015. APSLEY HOUSE, London. "Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington" c.1815 by Sir Thomas LAWRENCE (1769-1830). WM 1567-1948.

EXHIBITION USE ONLY
npg.896.1337 Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1815-16
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY MARKS 200th ANNIVERSARY OF WATERLOO WITH THE FIRST EXHIBITION ON THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington will open at the National Portrait Gallery, to mark the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015. APSLEY HOUSE, London. “Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington” c.1815 by Sir Thomas LAWRENCE (1769-1830). WM 1567-1948.

Wellington died at Walmer Castle in Kent in1852. William Lobb introduced the following year a tree, native of Sierra Nevada, California into Britain. It’s become rather an unusual monument to the man who avoided the unnecessary bloodshed of his troops where possible  and said of his men, “I don’t know what they effect they have on the enemy but by God they terrify me.”  John Lindley of the Horticultural Society was given the job of naming the tree. The Americans wanted to call it after Washington but Lindley called it after the Iron Duke, the hero of Waterloo. The tree became the Wellingtonia. We also call them giant sequoia or giant redwood. Sequoia are the largest trees in the world. Wellingtonia can be found in stately homes from Chatsworth to Kedleston. These towering conifers with their furrowed rusty red trunks are babies. They’ll still be growing on the 2,000th anniversary of Waterloo.

There’s even a Wellingtonia Society  called Redwood World. Why not visit the site to find out if there’s one near you, or you may know of one that’s not on their list http://www.redwoodworld.co.uk/locations.htm.

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Filed under Local History links, Napoleonic Wars, Nineteenth Century