The following are extracts from Sir George’s journal between August 1831 and August 1846.
Sir George was the 8th baronet, born 1st February 1795 and died 1st January 1844 aged 48. The family changed their name from Harpur to Crewe in 1808, after 1844 they used the name Harpur Crewe and in 1961 Harpur-Crewe. Sir George was MP for Derbyshire South from 1835-41, he added to the art collection and amassed a large collection of butterflies, stuffed animals and other natural history objects.
1831 August 7th It was my intention to have devoted the pages of this book to the purpose of an Agricultural Journal not having had opportunity to enjoy its original purpose that of a Journal during an intended time in Scotland, which time, much as I might wish it, I have never yet been able to accomplish. My second purpose has shared the same fate with my former one. I now take it up in anticipation of a third plan not wishing that so much good paper so neatly bound should remain unoccupied. On the day of the above date I left Calke Abbey with my dearest wife and three little ones for the first time to take up our abode at “Warslow Hall” for so the natives have dignified a small but convenient House which I have built for the accommodation of my Agent on the Harpur Estates in this county. The property which consists of the larger portion of the Parish of Alstonefield in the county of Stafford was purchased by my ancestor from the Curzon family and has now been in their possession for several generations. At the time of the purchase I imagine but a small portion, comparatively speaking, of the land was enclosed or in a state of cultivation – the greater being an abode for Grouse – bleak and apparently barren moor. Coal and lead mines were worked and from them in all probability arose the greater bulk of the original population. The residents as they increased in number were allowed, most likely encouraged to build their little huts on the spots they severally chose and from time to time to take in from the moors such portion as their capital or their industry induced them to occupy. Little, in most cases no rent was charged. The consequence of this mistaken kindness has been a large population, abundance of poverty and to the great proprietors a considerable loss of land. By degrees from neglect of Agents, occupiers by lay possession either became proprietors of the land they held or fancied themselves such. Possessions were sold and re-sold, Fines levied .. & .. & and at length the number of freeholds became very numerous. Some 25 years ago my dear parent being in possession was moved to examine into the condition of the estate and for the first time the encroachments were examined into ?????? sought for and an attempt made to stem an evil which in a short time would have gone very far towards wresting from the owner, rightfully so, the property his ancestors had bequeathed to him. It was in the midst of this exertion to recover lost rights and preserve which remained unfulfilled that I came into possession of this estate. In the first year I visited it and I believe I was the first possessor of my family who ever set foot upon it for any other purpose than that of shooting grouse for 2 or 3 days in the early part of the Season. I visited all parts found the people 100 years behind the rest of the world, well-disposed, but ignorant and simple-minded. I found a property capable of immense improvement but entangled in all the mazes of former neglect and burdened with difficulties not immediately to be overcome. I gave every encouragement to my Agent, became acquainted with all the principle tenantry, paid an annual visit to Buxton, the nearest place where I could procure a lodging, made an attempt to hire a small house in the neighbourhood but in this failed. At last, after three or four years making little or no progress, my worthy old agent, Mr Farmer getting old and infirm I was obliged to make a change in the appointment. It was my determination to look out for a well-educated young man of steady habits of placid manners of good agricultural skill who should received such a salary as should enable him to give his sole and undivided attention as my locum tenens to this estate.
[ Appoints Mr R B Manclarke who had been appointed to the farms at Repton Park one year previously.]
I determined at once to devote a proportion of the produce of the estate first to have a regular Survey taken of the whole and second to the building of a house in which he might always reside. To render my purpose more complete I also determined to add a few rooms to the House for the accommodation of myself and Family to visit there during some part of the summer months. The House was taken possession of by Mr Manclarke and his family about 18 months ago and this summer the rooms intended for our use were announced to be ready for our reception.
August 25th. We have been here a week this day and I propose as I have leisure to keep in this end a sort of Journal and Register relative to this spot. Far removed as we are from the busy hum of men the beauty of the surrounding country makes the place cheerful and the bracing effect of mountain air exhilarates us so much as to prevent the possibility of “ennui” entering our breasts, We are already become deeply interested in all that surrounds us and if it please God we are able to fulfil our intention of residing here a few weeks, shall have quite as much occupation as we can well attend to. In some respects we feel as tho we were in a foreign land. Although we have brought no more attendants than were absolutely necessary and have no retinue of Grooms and Horses and have as far as possible dispensed with all the paraphanalia either of rank or wealth – still our establishment is such as the natives have never been accustomed to see and as a farmer’s wife told us on Sunday Evening we are the first “Fine Folk” as she was pleased to call us “as she had ever seed in this country.” Whilst we gaze with interest on their native simplicity, they in turn look upon us as foreign curiosities. Wherever we walk the little children peep and view and whisper to one another as “a sight” was approaching. Excepting Mr Manclarke and his family and the Rev Mr Pidcocke and his lady at the Manse there is not a family which could be called genteel in the whole neighbourhood and these persons are of very recent date in the knowledge of the people. When I first visited this property there was not even a clergyman of civilized exterior, habits or manners. The first abode of a minister which I visited was at “The Flash” where I found his wife upon her knees scrubbing the floor and his four or five children without shoes or stockings and almost without proper clothing running about before the door of his habitation which was a miserable cot by the mountain side. The next was a respectable man in some respects but a constant occupation of The Ale House Bench and of rough and uncouth manners. The third church was served by a clever man from a distance but of whose moral character there was no good report. The only medical man in the parish was very shrewd, clever, but a sot violent and vulgar in the extreme of low-minded uncleaness. Alas poor man, a victim to his own folly and sin after by indulgence in habits of intemperance he fell a few months ago as prey to that uneasiness of mind which as he acknowledged to religious principle, he had no power to struggle against. By his own hand he put an end at once to his temporal and eternal hopes of Peace.
[Recap on the work done at Alstonefield, Flash, Longnor churches and vicarages.]
[August 27th Royal Cottage, Goldsitch Moss, Three Shires, Flash, Travellers’ Rest, Flash Parsonage.]
1831 September 1st
Yesterday I started early accompanied by Mr Manclarke for a ride to review some houses under repair, etc. The first house we called at was on the left side of the road between this place and Longnor. I was hailed by a man who wished me to inspect his house its being much in need of repair .. & ..& .. My Agent had before informed me of his needs and recommended him as an industrious person worthy of assistance. I found his Wife and Daughter engaged in washing Linen outside the House for within there was no room for such operations. The daughter having wiped off the suds, offered to show me the House. The whole consisted of one House-place as they call it and a Chamber of equal size, this served for all purposes. In every Crevice of the room where shelves could be erected Cheese the Produce of the Farm was placed. The same below, every spare place of room which would hold a Cheese was occupied with one either fresh or old. More evident want of room could not be required. The House what there was of it was propped up in all directions and even secure as they called it, I confess I should not much like to occupy any part or portion thereof in a November night with a Heavy Gale blowing. I was much pleased with the honest open-hearted simplicity of the man and his daughter – no moping no complaining a perfect readiness to do all himself that lay in his power and a patience to wait until it came to his turn to be served. I could only promise him that if it pleased God to spare my Life until next year I would endeavour to grant his reasonable requests.
Mounting our Horses again, we proceeded thro’ Longnor toward Hollinsclough. On our way we called at the house of a Tenant by name Plant where some Building was going forward. This man occupies 80 acres of land and is a Butcher by Trade. Here were evident great marks of persevering industry – a great portion of his land is recently reclaimed from a wild moor and now bearing excellent crops of corn, and luxuriant herbage. Mr Plant was to all appearances a simple labouring man, but honest, hearty and simple-minded. We inspected all his buildings and promised him every encouragement in our power.
Leaving this interesting spot we entered upon the beautiful valley of Hollinsclough, as “The Clough” as it is called. “Clough”, I apprehend it, is but another word for “Cleft” or Valley. The road to this place as to persons unaccustomed to it, barely passable for a Horse, indeed mine seemed so surprised at it that I deemed it at once more prudent and more agreeable to dismount and lead him down the rocky road. After a steep descent of about a mile we came to “The Clough” where a knot of houses singularly thrown together as fancy or convenience dictated, forms the Village.
Here we inspected a House, under repair, the owner if which was absent. I did not agree from the appearance of the place, indeed I feel now inclined to doubt, the “fact asserted” by his son that neither the Master nor the Mistress were at home. We had with us the Carpenter, Employed in Superintendence of these works and he with us was not at all satisfied at the mode in which the building was about to be done.
The rise of the Hill on leaving Hollinsclough on the opposite side to that on which we had entered it was for way far more steep than the approach before complained of. So much so, that as before, I dismounted to save my Neck and my Horse River(?) from being broke going down Hill so now for an equivalent and similar reason I toiled up Hill leading my way. This an attendant informed me was the principal approach to the place up which all their “Export Commodities” must rise and down which all their imports, chiefly Coal and Fuel must descend. There was another road but infinitely worse.
Soon after topping the Hill we began almost as abruptly to descend again. Here my attention was drawn to a remarkably neat Farm House upon our right. Mr Manclarke informed that was the residence lately occupied by a very respectable man who had just an End to Existence by drowning himself. No sufficient cause has ever been assigned for the rash and dreadful act. The widow still resides there. I could not but call upon her were it … as a mark of attention. I found her apparently a very young woman altho her eldest child was 6 yr old she did not appear more than 23 or 24. I conversed with her a short time as Mr M was holding my Horse at the Door. She appeared severely to feel her Loss but could give no account of the circumstances which might have induced her husband to destroy himself. She said for a week before he had been complaining of his Head & seemed very odd & uncomfortable. The widow seemed much pleased to see me. Leaving this melancholy spot with its present tale of woes, we proceeded in the direction of “The Flash”.
There Mr Manclarke left me to return homeward and I took the road for “Buxton”. The day was fine and I enjoyed my ride very much. I halted my Horse at the Eagle walked into the Crescent bought a souvenir for my dear wife and for John and mounted my Horse to return home by the Longnor Turnpike Road. At The Gate at Glutton Bridge the Keeper of the Toll-Bar challenged me with name and introduced herself as the Wife of a Tenant. I was much pleased with the woman’s manners and appearance. On my return home I found the she and her Husband were worthy people who had been past sufferers from the cruel treatment experienced from Mr Sam Johnson a Tenant of mine.
Note this Business. I propose to enquire strictly and with God’s assistance hope to do justice or rather to see that justice is done in the shape of some ….. for the poor people’s loss.
The road between Longnor and home being newly made and very rough I travelled home not …. and did not reach it until half past 6 o’clock.
[September 8th dinner to celebrate the coronation of William IV at the “Hare and Greyhounds”]
[September 9th village sports, roast haunch of venison and fireworks to celebrate wedding anniversary.]
[September 11th Sunday – Church and Sunday School.]
[September 12th distribution of clothing to the poor.]
D2375/40/10 Pages 164, 165
1833 August 21 Calke Abbey Had I upon my estate a second house of smaller dimensions I should not hesitate a moment as to what plan I should adopt. But it so happens I have no house of sufficient size to hold my family. Repton Park which is the only 2nd house, I could not fit into save with a reduced establishment. In some cases it happens that a Mansion House, if too large may be reduced. But with Calke this is nigh impossible without spoiling the whole. Calke is a magnificent place but it is much too large and too expensive for the present estate in these reduced times and when for several generations the owners have never by marriage or otherwise brought any additions to it but each successive family has been provided for by a slice taken from the original whole. Again it has been enlarged and beautified on a scale which does not admit of reduction. The House itself cannot be contracted. The Pleasure ground, if contracted, must be taken away altogether.
[1836 September 16 arrived Warslow Hall.]
[September 17 to Longnor.]
[September 18 Warslow Church.]
[September 19 Middle Hills (Beer Shop), Old Inn, Gib Tor, Newtown, Warslow.]
[September 21 callers, Gateham, Alstonefield, Narrowdale.]
[September 22 Longnor, Hardingsbooth.]
[September 23 left Warslow for Calke Abbey.]
September 26 Longnor He [Mr Buckwell] tells me he yet wants another Chapel in the District viz at Hollinsclough and also at Fawfieldhead. This I must endeavour to accomplish out of the proceeds of the allotments for Great Tithes.
[September 27 Alstonefield.]
[September 28 “Lump Hole Bridge”.]
[August 21 Warslow, Middle Hills, Royal Cottage, Flash, Quarnford, Goldsitch Moss, across Buxton-Leek Turnpike road, Warslow.]
[August 22 Sheen, Longnor]
[August 23 Newtown Church opened]
D2375/40/14 Page 204
August 28 1841 Warslow Hall I steal a leisure moment to record the delights of a bright day in my life now a matter of history – for it is past – I started about 12.0 noon accompanied by my Dear Wife on a small Welsh Pony which Mr Manclarke was so kind as to lend her to ride down to Longnor to call upon my worthy friend Mr Buckwell. We took luncheon with him and then proceeded to the Beautiful Vale of Hollinsclough. It was this time only in last year at which Mr Buckwell first called my attention to the lamentable state of religion, destitution, the darkness, the grievance and indeed the almost savage state in which many of the poor people were still to be found in that spot – nearly 700 persons he told me were without any instruction, seldom attending any place of public worship, indeed, only attending an irregular and occasional service at the Meeting House built many years ago at Hollinsclough by the very excellent old man Mr Lomas.
I had happily I should say rather, providentially, been led a few years before to make a purchase of a House and Barn newly erected and about 7 acres of land adjoining the house. The idea struck me that this purchase might be appropriate for the purpose required – so I offered Mr Buckwell to convert the Barn into a Chapel and the dwelling-house into a Parsonage and to contribute to the maintenance of a clergyman if he could find any gentleman in orders and a married man who would be content as a devoted missionary to take up his abode in this beautiful but entirely secluded spot.
The work was commenced forthwith; by March last it was completed. A License was procured from the Bishop and the hand of our merciful Saviour, or rather I should say, His Blessed Spirit directed us, after many vain attempts (for everyone was frightened who came to look at the place) to a gentle-man who gladly accepted the situation and as soon as possible came and took up his residence at Hollinsclough.
Yesterday I was privileged (Oh what a mercy! Oh what a privilege!!!) to go and witness the completion of all our plans. So soon as we reached the Brow of Foreside Hill the workmen who are finishing the little Bell-Tower, saw us coming and began to ring the single Bell to ……. its tone was particularly sweet …… the Echo in the surrounding hills carried went to our Ears almost as clear as if we were close to it. The new building became visible and when I first caught sight of it & the sweet sound of the “Church going Bell ne’er heard in these Vallies before” greeted my ears. I was well nigh overcome & had I but been alone I would have left my saddle and cast myself down on my knees to …… “Praise unto God” – As it was I could only mentally Ejaculate “Praise the Lord O my soul. Let all that is in me O praise His Holy Name - God be merciful to me, a miserable sinner.”
Arrived at the little Parsonage – I was introduced to Mrs Smith whose gratitude for all that had been done for them was quite overwhelming. Both herself and Mr Smith gave us a hearty welcome. The people too seemed so happy and thankful and so changed even in the short space of six months in their manners and habits that I could scarce have recognised them. We then visited the Little Chapel attached to which is a good schoolroom by leaving a door of which open – a porch entrance can be (?)
D2375/40/12 Pages 216, 217
1846 Aug 20th Calke Abbey I returned of Friday night from Warslow (Staffordshire) where I had been spending a very delightful week amongst my simple-minded but honest peasantry in the moor-land county(?), where my heart has been lifted up with joy and thankfulness to see that in infinite mercy, the Lord had so helped my poor Efforts at improvement there and at the same time I had felt humbled in the dust when I considered how little I had done to what with greater diligence I might have done. I should most probably remained there part of another week at least but I was anxious to return home in order that I might today accompany my Dear Wife to Church to return thanks for “her safe delivery from the pains and perils of childbirth” this which it has pleased God to spare her for the 7th time.