Mary Queen of Scots – World Tour of Derbyshire…with a detour to Yorkshire and Staffordshire

Next week we’re off on a Tudor adventure, on the trail of Mary Queen of Scots with our middle grand daughter who is doing her GCSE in history next year. Some of the places on the list are more obvious than others and some are not accessible.

Wingfield Manor is in need of some renovations. English Heritage has had to close the site while it’s made safe which is a shame because the fifteenth century manor it is a splendid ruin with its twin court yards and walnut tree allegedly grown from a nut dropped by Sir Anthony Babington when he visited the queen there in secret – the fact that its a fairy tale is neither here nor there, it makes for a good story. Dethick Manor where Babington was born is in private hands and I’m not sure if the church, which the Babingtons patronised, is open on a daily basis.

Hardwick Hall was completed by bess of Hardwick in 1597 but some of the wooden panelling came from Chatsworth and there’s a statue of Mary. It will also be an opportunity to explore the medieval manor and Bess’s Tudor creation. History students are required to study a Tudor location as their exams approach, although it could be as random as the site of the Battle of the Armada. This year it was Sheffield Manor Lodge.

Mary spent much of her captivity in Sheffield Castle which no longer exists but she also stayed at Sheffield Manor, hence the stop there. It’s opening is restricted but school holidays are a good time to visit. The journey across the moors between Sheffield and the Cavendish residence at Chatsworth or to Shrewsbury’s home at Wingfield can be typified by a walk at Longshaw. Mary is known to have enjoyed the opportunity to ride part of the way across the moors.

Talking of Chatsworth, not much remains of the Tudor building apart from Queen Mary’s Bower, a raised platform near the entrance to the house. Haddon Hall is on the list not because of Mary but because its one of the finest medieval manor houses in the country. Henry Vernon completed much building work during the Tudor period but when the male line died out it was very little used – so a good example to explore in terms of architecture and evolution.

Ashover Church contains many Babington monuments and accounts for the families position in the Derbyshire gentry. Ashbourne Church houses a monument to one of Mary’s jailors; The Babington Arms was the family’s Derby home and does what it says on the can; the Earl of Shrewsbury is buried in Sheffield Cathedral while his countess rests in Derby. Both have rather splendid monuments.

Tutbury, which is of course in Staffordshire, was another of Mary’s prisons and the Old Hall Hotel is where she went to take the water as a cure from her rheumatism. It may also be the location for a cream tea if the aforementioned grandchild plays her cards right. And of course, as some of you will remember, this is the child whose first question at Fountains Abbey (when she was knee high to a grass hopper) was “does it have a cafe?” – to which the answer to all of the above is if it doesn’t, I know where one is.

Derbyshire Monastic houses

In Yorkshire prior to the dissolution of the monasteries there was approximately one monastic house in every one hundred and nine miles. In North Yorkshire that dropped to one in every eighty-two miles. It’s impossible not to think of the great Cistercian establishments and the ruins that still dominate the landscape.

It’s a bit of a different story in Derbyshire.  There were no Cistercian foundations swelling in the area.  Of the seven houses, not counting Bradbourne which was a cell of Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire, five were Augustinian and two were Premonstratsensian.

Here’s a map. Click on the map to change its size and on the bullet points for further information about each of the monastic foundations in the region:

The pattern of their dissolution followed the national pattern with visitation followed by surrender and suppression.  In addition to which thirty monastic houses held land, manors and benefices in Derbyshire.  Whilst Henry VIII’s change of “ownership” didn’t leave dramatic ruins in its wake it did change land ownership and the balance of power in the area.  Francis Leake and Sir William Cavendish both pocketing valuable estates.  The former’s descendants would become the earls of Scarsdale whilst the latter’s decedents would become the dukes of Devonshire.