People & events associated with Codnor throughout history
1066 The Norman Conquest
The Norman invasion of 1066 sent sweeping changes throughout the country;
William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) was now William l king of England
and the English forces were completely defeated. As William l subdued English rebels, he confiscated their lands and gave them to his Norman Knights who
had fought with him during the invasion.
Codnor suffered the same fate as the rest of the country; William l gave Codnor
and the surrounding areas to William Peveril, who chose to reside at Castleton
in the Peak. But a Man called Warner held the land around Codnor in his name.
The Domesday book records this as follows.
6 Manors In Codnor ,Heanor ,Langley ,and 'Smithycote' ,8 thegns had
7carucates of land to the geld. There is land for as many ploughs. There are
now 3 ploughs in demesne; and 11 villeins and 2 bordars and 3 sokemen
having 5 ½ ploughs. There is a church, and 1 mill [rendering] 12d , and 35
acres of meadow, [and] woodland pasture 2 leagues long and 3 furlongs broad.
Before 1066 worth 4l shillings; now 41shillings and 4d . Warner holds it.
Terminology explained below:
Smithycote: A medieval Village now extinct. Fred S Thorpe records Smithycote as being in the Bell House area of Hog barn Lane.
Thegn: A noble who held his estate for the king on the understanding that in
times of war he would fight for the king.
Carucates: The area of land able to be ploughed in a day by a team of eight
Geld: land to the Geld, meaning land that created revenue for the crown.
Demesne: Demesne, land directly controlled by the lord and used for the
benefit of his household and dependents;
Villeins: Surfs who had more rights and status than slaves, and generally
rented homes from their Lord. However they were tied to the land and could
not move away without their lord's consent. Escaping to a city and living there
for more than a year could gain freedom; but this often led to crime for survival,
which gave the alternate spelling "villain" its modern meaning.
Bordars: Bordars were surfs tied to the land and of a lower standing than
Villeins, usually had a smallholding.
Sokemen: Usually Landowners, Farmers etc. Includes Yeoman or Freemen
who employed surfs to farm the land and rendered services to the Lord of the
There is no mention of a castle at Codnor in the Domesday Book, but this
doesn’t rule out the possibility that one existed.
After all the Domesday book, commissioned by King William l was a land
survey designed to establish the amount of tax he could expect to receive
from each district.
If Warner held a castle at Codnor, he would collect the taxes from the farms
and mills in the area to pay the King. But the castle itself would not be
classed as a taxable asset and so would not need recording in the Domesday
survey of 1086.
It is important to remember that the Norman trend throughout the country was
to quickly establish some sort of fortified building in the local area. This was
usually in the form of a wooden Motte and Bailey castle designed to protect
the Lord from any nearby English rebellions, but also to send out a clear
message to all the local inhabitants.
“The Normans are in charge of you lot in Codnor now - and we’re here to stay”
And stay they did.
No other medieval European conquest of Christians by Christians had such
devastating consequences for the defeated ruling class.
A direct consequence of the invasion was the near total elimination of the
Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and the loss of English control over the Catholic
Church in England.
William 1 introduced Feudal law to rule the fragmented lands of England.
Under the feudal system, every person had obligations to a superior
The King was above all others and answerable only to God, but he needed to
ensure the loyalty of his subjects. He did this by granting land known as Fief
or Feud to his nobleman and in return they swore to serve only him.
The Barons or tenants-in-chief These were the lords that that had been granted land by the king. They were known as the Kings vassals and in turn leased their land to sub-tenants.
The Sub-tenants were the lords vassals and would be lower Squires or
Yeoman. They promised to serve the tenants-in-chief and provide military
service in times of war.
The peasants (including both free men and villeins) had to perform services for
their landlords and pay them rents.
The obligations and relations between lord, vassal and fief form the basis of
feudalism. This form of Government ensured that William 1 maintained power
in England even when he was away from the country.
Sources: The History of England, by David Hume 1688
History of the County of Derby, by Steven Glover 1829
National Archives: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
The Heritage of Codnor & Loscoe by Fred S Thorpe 1990
1215 Signing of the Magna Carta
The Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by his subjects in an attempt to limit his powers by law. The Barons were split in their loyalty. Some like Lord Richard de Grey of Codnor remained loyal to the king but an overwhelming majority turned against him and he was forced to sign the document, conceding his powers to the new parliament. In return, the Barons renewed their oaths of fealty to King John on June 19, 1215. Richard de Grey's uncle, Walter de Grey (Archbishop of York) was present at the signing of the Magna Carta.
Sources: An Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John by Richard Thompson 1829.
A general and heraldic dictionary of the peerages of England, Ireland, and Scotland, by John Burke 1831.
The History of England, by David Hume 1688 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta
1415 Battle of Agincourt
Richard 4th Baron Grey of Codnor Leads 222 men from Derbyshire into battle along side King Henry 5th against the French at Agincourt. Despite the English suffering from dysentery and exhaustion and being heavily outnumbered by the French they manage to defeat the enemy with superior tactics and masterful use of the English longbow against the French Cavalry. Some historians estimate the French dead in excess of 7000 compared to the English loss of approx 300.
Sources: History of the Battle of Agincourt: And of the Expedition of Henry the Fifth, By Nicholas Harris Nicolas 1827
Peerage of England, By Arthur Collins 1812
The History of England, by David Hume 1688
1467 Scarlet Closes
The war of the roses had divided the countries loyalty to the monarchy. The Greys of Codnor supporting the house of Lancaster, while some of the neighbouring barons supported the house of York. There was also a long running dispute between Henry 7th Baron Grey of Codnor Castle and the Vernon’s of Haddon Hall who were Yorkist’s. This escalated in 1467 when Henry Grey’s men murdered Henry Vernon’s uncle Roger who was one of the Vernon squires in Belper. A battle is said to have taken place at Codnor Castle between the households of Grey and Vernon. The Earl of Shrewsbury had to intervene and both sides had to pay £1000 fine and ordered to keep the peace. Frederick Channer Corfield records in the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal that a field to the west of the castle was once called Scarlet Closes after the blood spilt during the skirmish. However due to mining and landscaping in recent centuries all evidence is now lost.
Sources: Archaeological gleanings in the neighbourhood of Codnor Castle. Corfield, F.C., DAJ, vol. 15, 1893.
Historical research & Re-enactment http://www.houghtonkeep.com/history/15/grey.html
1529 The Days of Reformation
The Catholic church of those times was seduced at every level by worldly power; Pope and bishops pursued their own comforts and used their authority to accumulate vast wealth. King Henry VIII of England was frustrated with the lack of support the Catholic Church had given him for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in favour of his sweetheart Lady Anne Boleyn, but felt that he couldn’t abandon the Catholic faith without abandoning God. At the same time George Zouch of Codnor Castle was betrothed to a Miss Anne Gainsford. Miss Gainsford was maid of honour to lady Anne Boleyn. Both George Zouch and Miss Gainsford were both part of Anne boleyn’s household and were frequently in the company of the King. It was during this period that Anne Boleyn lent Miss Gainsford a book called “The Obedience of a Christian Man” by William Tyndale. Tyndale promoted the belief that Christians should be able to have and understand the Word of God without being dependent on corrupt religious leaders. He argued that the correct way to worship God was through prayer not gifts. Understandably this book did not go down well with the Catholic Church of the time, and every effort was made to prevent its widespread circulation. George Zouch became curious about this book Miss Gainsford was reading and one day snatched it from her and teased that he would not give it back. He withdrew to his room and began to read the book for himself; He soon became completely enthralled with its content. However one day he was caught reading the book in the Kings chapel by the Dean, the book was confiscated and handed to Cardinal Wolsey. George Zouch told Miss Gainsford what had happened and she in turn confessed to Lady Anne Boleyn that the book had fallen into Wolsey’s hands. Rather than being angry, lady Anne seized the opportunity to tell the King about the book, knowing he would be curious to see why it should be forbidden. Sure enough when Wolsey reported to the king, the king demanded to see the book he had confiscated. He then returned to his chambers and began to read the book.
He read with great interest such lines as;
“The king is in the room of God in this world. He that resisteth the king, resisteth God; he that judgeth the king, judgeth God. He is the minister of God to defend thee from a thousand inconveniences”
“Kings must make account of their doings only to God. No person may be exempt from this ordinance of God; neither can the profession of monks and friars, or anything that the popes or bishops can lay for themselves, except them from the sword of the Emperor or king, if they break the laws. For it is written (Romans 13), ‘Let every soul submit himself unto the authority of the higher powers.”
Tyndale’s book convinced him that the Catholic Church was not a power that he needed to worship or reward, he was only answerable to God! This was the excuse he needed to topple the Catholic Church in England without compromising the oath’s he had made. A series of events were kick-started that saw the Church of England brake away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, closely followed by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, who’s properties were confiscated by Royal Supremacy and the buildings dismantled or destroyed.
Sources: Narrative of the Days of the Reformation, By John Gough Nichols, John Foxe 1859
Ecclesiastical Biography: Or, Lives of Eminent Men, Connected with the History of Religion in England, By Christopher Wordsworth, Richard Gilbert 1818
Memoirs of the Reformers: British and Foreign, By J. W. Middleton 1829
1765 Legh Furnace
Legh Master was a very rich and powerful man. He had Inherited the Codnor estates from his father (also called Legh) as well as inheriting through marriage, the Barrow Green house estates in Surrey and was also owner of the New Hall estates in Lancashire. Around 1765 he sold the New Hall Estates and together with his wife and daughter set sail to America leaving his son Legh Hoskins Master as Lord of the manor of Codnor and Barrow Green House. When he arrived in Frederick County, Maryland, America he purchased an estate, which he called Legh Furnace. He built a family home called Avondale House, (which still exists) and before long established an Iron-smelting furnace that he worked using Negro slave labour. He saw the start of the American war of Independence in 1775 as an opportunity to manufacture ordnance for the British army. The American authorities took a dim view to this and promptly confiscated his estate. However it was later restored to him when he agreed to release some prisoners that he had taken. At one point he chose to abandon his wife and daughter near Baltimore and went to live for a while at Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. His wife and daughter together with a Negro slave were left to make their escape through the lines of opposing forces until they reached the coast. Then in a small boat, they set sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Legh returned to Legh furnace and was said to have sexually harassed a negro slave girl. He became angry when another slave called Sam attempted to help her. He threw Sam into the furnace alive, then killed the girl and disposed of the body by bricking it up in an oven. During renovations of Avandale house in the 1930s, the oven was opened and a human skeleton was found inside. Legh died in 1796 but had to be buried three times. The first two times his coffin rose to the surface during periods of heavy rain. He was eventually interred in consecrated ground at the Church of the Ascension Burial Ground Westminster, Carroll County, Maryland, USA under a heavy stone slab. But local folklore says even this failed to keep him buried, as the stone slab has cracked allowing his spirit to haunt the Legh furnace hills. And what of his wife and daughter? the boat was eventually washed up on the Welsh coast, they had both survived and went on to live at Redlands near Bristol.
Sources: Some notices of the family of Master, by Rev. George Streysham Master 1874
1817 The last English Revolution
By the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, England was in deep depression. Mass unemployment following the demobilising of the armed forces and increased mechanisation of industry meant the average working man struggled to earn a living. Poor crops and high taxes to recover the war debt made the situation even worse. On the 5th June 1817 in the White Horse public house in Pentrich, Jeramiah Brandreth, an unemployed stockinger from Sutton-in-Ashfield agreed to carry out a plan that involved leading a group of revolutionaries on a march to London to overthrow the government. On June 9th 1817 the plan was put into action. Jeramiah together with William Turner and Isaac Ludlam gathered a small group of men at South Wingfield and began a march to Nottingham, increasing their numbers on the way by press ganging men to join them from local farms and villages. On reaching Codnor, Jeramiah demanded admittance at the Old Glasshouse public house owned at the time by Joseph Thorpe. He had the landlord give his men bread and cheese and ale, but when he was presented with the bill he refused to pay saying that "If we offer you a Bank of England Bill it will be of no use now". The revolutionaries continued on their march but only got as far as Eastwood before they were intercepted by a detachment of the 15th Hussars. The government, fearing further protests decided to make examples of these rebels. Jeremiah Brandreth,Isaac Ludlem and William Turner were all sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. In the end they received clemency and were only hung and beheaded (I bet they were relieved). Several others went to jail and others were deported to Australia. The Pentrich Revolution as this event is now known, was the last revolution in England.
Sources: History of the County of Derby, by Steven Glover 1829
1893 Ormonde Fields Stand-off
In the early 1890s the majority of British industry was completely dependent on the output of coal. This put heavy demands on the pits and the miners that worked them. In 1889 a Bill had been put to Parliament designed to improve pay and working conditions in the coalmines and reduce the working day to eight hours. After the Bill had been rejected for a second time, together with the threat of a reduction in wages, the Miners Federation became frustrated and a general strike was called. The collieries in the Codnor area were owned by the Butterley company, and had so far been unaffected by the strike. However in 1893 coal production at the Butterley Company Collieries stopped and the miners went out on strike, demanding a 40% pay increase.
The manager of the Butterley Company collieries at the time was Frederick Channer Corfield of Ormonde Fields House Codnor. He was also a J.P. and Lieutenant Colonel commanding Butterley Detachment, 1st Volunteer Batallion, Derbyshire Regiment, of the Sherwood Foresters.
The stand-off continued until October 1893, when Col. Corfield gave notice that some of the Butterley Company Pits were prepared to start taking back mine workers at 15% above the former pay rate.
On the 30th October serious disturbances broke out at Ripley, when the Butterley Company tried to reopen a pit, with large crowds of strikers and their families gathering to harass strikebreakers. At 1pm the police called for the 17th Lancers from Alfreton to help control the crowd of approx 3500 people. people. A local Newspaper reported the incident as follows.
The crowd whiled away the intervening time good-humouredly enough and
as a relief to proceedings, hooted and yelled at Mr Corfield, the
manager, who arrived at about three o’clock. This, however did not in
any way disconcert that gentleman, who was shortly afterwards joined
by Mr Fitzherbert Wright JP, one of his sons, and Mr JJA Woolley JP,
the latter of whom was present to perform any necessary magisterial
duties in connection with the military. The soldiers were placed in a
field near the colliery, and were the objects of very friendly
interest on the part of the people. In the narrow lane, which leads to
the pit, the crowd continued to surge, and suddenly the railings,
unable to withstand the pressure, fell with a crash… The police however
scattered the crowd and drove the people back patiently and with tact.
However a little later the miners who had been working in the mine, finished their shift and needed to leave. Col. Corfield and leslie Wright distracted the attention of the crowd at the front entrance, whilst the miners were secreted out the back of the colliery. But the miners were spotted and the crowd became angry. Col. Corfield, now joined by his wife had to make their escape in a cart from a nearby farm. They were pursued by the angry crowd who pelted them with missiles. Col Corfield was forced to fire over the heads of his pursuers and eventually got back to Ormonde Fields House. He locked the doors and his wife gathered the children and servants in one wing of the house while Col. Corfield went up on to the roof of the house and confronted the mob.
He threatened to shoot anyone who attempted to enter the house. Eventually the police arrived and chased away the strikers but not before extensive damage had been caused to the conservatory of the house and to young trees that Frederick Corfield had planted.
The General strike eventually fizzled out after the intervention of the Prime Minister William Gladstone. The 1893 strike was the biggest industrial dispute in British history at the time. It affected over 300,000 miners and was the first industrial dispute to require the intervention of the British Government; such was the concern over the detrimental effect on the economy of a shortage of coal.
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