Archaeological Gleanings in the neighbourhood of Codnor Castle.

F. Channer Corfield, J.P., of Ormonde Fields.

The following article appeared in the "Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society" volume 15 1893. It has been digitised by the Internet Archive and is freely available to view or download at
Any Text that appears in blue below, indicates an entry by the journal editor were he considered certain elements of the article required further explanation. An astirix* is used to indicate the section it refers too.


The Rev. J. Charles Cox, LL.D., in his "Churches of Derbyshire " (Vol. IV., p. 240), states that there was a chapel attached to the extensive castle of Codnor in Heanor parish. There seems to be no very clear evidence of the existence of this chapel beyond tradition and the discovery of a few relics of an apparently ecclesiastical character on the supposed site. These remains, consisting of a font,* a key, a female head carved in stone, something like the termination of a label, and some indications of interments were discovered about forty yards to the north of the ancient dwelling-house at Ormonde Fields, and about 500 yards west of the castle on the edge of " Church Close," ** a field which has borne this name for generations, as is attested by the title deeds of the Ormonde Fields estate.

* " Font." We are indebted to the kindness of P. H. Currey, Esq., for
the beautiful sketch of this "font." There can be no doubt of its antiquity,
for the details are of the Early Decorated period of Gothic art. It is, how-
ever, smaller than the fonts of that period usually are, and looks much more like a goodly " aspersorium " or holy-water stoup from the porch of some
parish church — the shallowness of the bowl greatly favouring this idea — or a detached " lavabo," or "piscina." The porch of Heanor old church was
a hideous classical structure of the Georgian period, with a round arched
outer doorway, adorned with a projecting wedge-shaped " keystone," and
corresponding "risers." If the Codnor relic should not have been what the
writer of this article supposes, it was probably a former appendage to the
original porch at Heanor ; and this idea is strengthened by the fact that the
"caps" of the imposts of the old chancel arch in that church were almost
fac-similes of the work of the supposed "font" from Ormonde Fields. — (Ed.)

** "Church close." This is a common name applied to church lands now
alienated, but once bequeathed for the endowments of chantries in parish
churches. This designation therefore cannot be adduced as indisputable proof of the former existence of a chapel on the spot. These observations are offered with due and respectful deference : and although it is never the object of a true archsologist to set aside or ignore the value of local traditions, it is always advisable where original documentary evidence cannot be obtained, to weigh carefully both sides of the argument. — (Ed.)

Font found at Codnor

Fig.1 Font found at Codnor Castle. Illustration by P.H.Currey 1891
Displayed courtesy of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society

The font was dug up in 1834 by a labourer named Hicking, of Codnor, then employed by Mr. Samuel Woolley, a former owner of the property, in a spot pointed out to the Rev. Fred. Corfield, late rector of Heanor (1866 — 1879) by Mr. Woolley. This interesting relic remained for some years in the garden at Ormonde Fields until the death of one of the owners of the property, when it was taken by Mr. Starbuck, a relative of the Woolleys, to a farmhouse at Codnor. After Mr. Starbuck's death it was removed to Heanor, about the year 1870, by Mr. J. S. Woolley, surgeon, where it remains in the possession of his widow. At the time of the discovery of the font was found the head of a female quaintly carved in stone, now in the hall at Ormonde Fields. It is of excellent workmanship, and was originally about nine inches in length. It exhibits a square head-dress, with lappets characteristic of the costume worn about the end of the fourteenth century.

There can be no doubt but that interments have taken place in Church Close, for several inhabitants of Codnor now living have seen human remains and parts of coffins disturbed when the iron-stone mines were worked here some forty or fifty years ago.

It is not probable that the Greys used this place for interment. The Zouches, the successors of the Greys, repose at Heanor, and as they were the heirs of the Greys, it is not unlikely that members of both houses sleep together in death. When the body of the old parish church at Heanor was taken down in 1868 to be replaced by the present building, the Codnor Castle vault was broken open by the falling of one of the beams of the nave roof. The large stone covering the steps about three feet to the east of the present font was shattered, and on its removal an inspection of the interior of the vault was made by the rector and myself, accompanied by Mr. Woodhead, one of the churchwardens. Here we found seventeen leaden coffins, most of which lay side by side upon the floor, several smaller ones being placed upon them. Some of the larger ones measured from seven feet, to seven feet four inches in length, and upon three at least of them were what appeared to have been swords and shields of arms, but these
crumbled away as soon as touched.

The vault was afterwards filled with other coffins taken from beneath the old square pews, and lying above the present floor level, and a gravestone having been placed over the entrance, the whole was covered with concrete.

The registers of Heanor Church, commencing in 1559, contain the following entries of the Zouches of Codnor Castle : —

" 1607. An Zouche gent' Daughter of Sir John Zouche Knight
was buried ye 8"" day of februarie."

" 1610. Sir John Zouche Knight was buried ye 3rd day of Aprill."

" 1611. Elianor wife of ye Righte Honorable Lord Edward
Zouch Barron was buried ye third day of Aprill."

"John ye sonne of John Zouche esquire of Codnor castell
& Iszabell his wife was buried ye 15th day of Januarij."

" 1612. John ye sonne of John Zouche Esquire and Iszabell
his wife of Codnor Castell was borne ye first day of ffebruarij
and Christened the xxv"* of ye same moneth at ye Castall of
Codnor aforesaid."

" 1630. George Zouch sonn to the Righte Worshipful! Sir John
Zouch was buryed the xixth Daye of Marche."

" 1632. Isabell Zouch Ladye & wife of the Righte Worshipfull
Sir John Zouch of Codnar Castall was buried the Nintinthe Daye
of October."

---? "George Zouch son of the right Worshipful Sir Henry Zouch was buried 20th day of May."*

* The following additional entries from the Heanor registers have been
kindly supplied to the Editor by Mr. R. Burton, though there was no probable affinity between these and the old family of Zouch, owners of the castle.

1615. " Elizabeth Daughter of Zouche Day & Elizabeth his wife was
Chiistened ye vjth day of Aprill."

1624. "Sampson the sonn to Zouch Coulclough was baptized the first
Daye of August."

1625. " Zouch Wilde of Codnar Park and Ann his wife had their sonn
baptized Thomas the xvi Day of October."

1632. "Zouch Brunte of Codnor Castell & Ales Stafford of the aforesaid
Castell was maryed March the xxvth."

1673. " Mr Zouch Wilde of Codnor Castle was buried July ye 5th."
The Wilde family of Loscoe used the name of Zouch for three generations.
They owned a small estate at Loscoe, and leased minerals for their furnaces at Loscoe in 1650. They resided at one time in a farmhouse about half a mile from the castle, and were registered at Heanor as " of Codnor Castle,'' meaning the Liberty of Codnor Castle. It is said that John Woolley, the original clockmaker of Codnor was apprenticed to John Wild, of Nottingham, who probably might be of the family of the Wilds of Codnor. — Ed. * See "Journal," Vol. XIV., p. 20.

The castle and estates were sold by the Zouch family in 1634, and it is very doubtful indeed whether any of the lords of Codnor ever inhabited the castle after that date. The property afterwards passed to the family of Neile by purchase, and eventually it was purchased by the family of Masters of Kent, in the year 1692. Sir Strenysham Master, stated to have been of Codnor
Castle, knight, was High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1712, but it must have been as owner of the estate, and not as a resident that he was appointed.

There exists a view of Codnor Castle by Buck, printed in 1727 (see "Journal," Vol. XIV., p. 16), and dedicated to the knight's son, Leigh Master, Esquire, and it seems hardly credible that twenty-five years before the view was taken, the place should be inhabited by the Lord of the Manor with his retinue, though it is stated in Glover's " History of Derbyshire," Vol. II., p. 307, "that Sir Strenysham Master resided here." Lysons, however, from whom Glover probably copied, does not say so.

It would probably be of interest, when dealing with this subject, to give a few notes with reference to the title of the Ormonde Fields estate, upon which the old chapel stood. This property, no doubt, formed part of the estates of the Warners, lords of Codnor, soon after the Norman survey, whose family appear to have ended in an heiress Isolda,* who carried the estate to her husband. Sir Henry Grey, knight, who lived at Codnor Castle in 1208, and the property probably remained in that family till it was alienated by one of the Greys to the family of Clarke. The date of this alienation is uncertain, but it was probably at the time or soon after the decay of the chapel. It is certain that the heirs of the Greys in the Castle estates had no footing here, and the Clarkes were no doubt retainers or dependents of the Greys.
It is recorded that Henry Lord Grey, who owned the castle from the death of his father on the first August, 1435, to his own death in 1443, appointed one John Clarke to be keeper of the parks of Codnor and Aldercar, with a salary of twopence per day, and that his son Henry, last Lord Grey, confirmed his father's appointment in 1458, and in 1465 Reginald Grey de Wilton, then owner of an estate at Shirland in this county, presented John Clerk to the rectory there. (There is, of course, no proof that this John
Clerk was one of the same family, though it is only fair to suppose that he was.) The fact of the boundary of this property being so close to the castle, and that the chapel stood on this estate, seems to me clear evidence that these lands were granted by the Greys to one of their retainers, and no doubt the John Clarke, park ranger, or his ancestors, obtained a footing here from the Greys.
The boundary between the two properties (Codnor Castle and Ormonde Fields) is still known as the Buck Leap, and the Lord of the Castle claimed the right to take game and fell trees twelve feet beyond the fence, into what is called the Scarlet Closes, so named by tradition from a bloody battle having been fought there between the Greys and a neighbouring lord, who attempted to break down the castle and kill the lord thereof.

Several of the inhabitants now living, who have heard the tale from their forebears, have given me details of this battle, and, curiously enough, each told the same story.
It is open to question whether John Clarke of Codnor, in 1458, was ancestor of John Clarke of Codnor, yeoman, who was, undoubtedly, possessed of this estate before 1561, but it is more than likely that he was.*
I have not seen any early pedigree of the family, or do I know what relationship there existed between the Clarkes of Somerall, in the parish of Brampton, and those of Codnor, beyond the marriage mentioned below.

Some of the family resided at Chesterfield, and Nicholas Clarke, who died in March, 1589, was of Brampton. One of his sons, Godfrey Clarke, Esquire, married Margaret, daughter of Oliver Bond, of Mansfield, and died 21st March, 1634, aged 80 years. His son Gilbert, who died in 1650, aged 60, married Ellen, daughter and heiress of John Clarke, of Codnor, gent., and
she was also eventually the heiress of the Kirkeland family, her mother having been Mary, daughter of John Kirkeland, of Wheatcroft, in the parish of Crich. This John Clarke, son of John Clarke of Codnor, died in 1641, aged 88 years, and had a brass plate with a long inscription placed on a stone in the nave of Heanor church. The stone was much decayed, and when the church was rebuilt the rector had the brass removed and erected in the tower, where it now is.**

* To show the difficulty in tracing so common a name as Clarke, I have searched the list of wills at Lichfield, and find that from 1562 to 1586 there are no less than thirty-three wills of Clarkes, and six of them are John Clarke.

Godfrey Clarke, the son of Gilbert and Ellen, was High Sheriff for Derbyshire in 1652 : he resided a good deal at Codnor and is said to have planted an avenue of walnut trees, which were cut down by Mr. Samuel Woolley about 1843. He added very much to the wealth of the family by his marriage with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Milward, Lord of the Manors
of Eaton, Dovedale, and Chilcote, and after her death, in 1645, he married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Nicholas Frevile, of Hardwick, Co. Durham, and died in 1652, aged 52 years. By his first wife he had two sons ; the eldest — Godfrey of Somersall, &c., M.P. — married Catherine, daughter of Philip, Earl of Stanhope; she died, 25th December, 1728. His will is dated Sept. 7th, 1773, and he mentions his estate at Codnor Castle; he left his property to his nephew Godfrey, son of his brother, Sir
Gilbert Clarke, Kt., M.P,, and died s.p. 25th March, 1734.**

* It is within the memory of the writer to have seen on the old
gallery in Heanor church the following inscription, written upon a blue board with a gold edge : — " This loft was built at ye sole cost of John Clarke, of
Codnor, gent., in the year 1633, who died Ann° Dom' 1641, et Ano AEtates 88.
** Godfrey Clarke, Esq., purchased the manors of Normanton and Sutton about 1742, from the heirs of the last Earl of Scarsdale.

Godfrey Clarke, Esq., of Codnor, Chilcote, Sutton, &c., High Sheriff for Derbyshire in 1740, married Ann, only daughter of German Pole, Esq., of Radborne Hall, by Sarah, his wife, daughter of Joseph Bagnall, of Roehampton, Esq. ; he left his property to his eldest son and heir, Godfrey Bagnall Clarke, Esq., having died before March 9th, 1772. G. B. Clarke dying in 1774 unmarried, the estates passed to his brother Gilbert Clarke, of Aldershot, who, also dying unmarried in 1786, left his property to his sister Sarah, who married, in October 1783, John Hart Price, Esq., of
Aldershot who on his marriage took the name and arms of Clarke
(Azure 3 escallops in pale or between two flaunches ermine) after
and in addition to his own.

During his ownership, the estates became encumbered to no less a figure than £68,000. Mrs. Sarah Price Clarke died in December, 1801, having left two children, one son and one daughter ; the son, Godfrey Thomas Robert Price Clarke, his mother's heir, died under age in 1802, when the whole of the estates passed to the daughter Anna Maria Catherine, who, on the
17th March, 1805, married the Right Honorable Walter, eighteenth
Earl of Ormonde, who was created a Marquis in 1816. The Marchioness of Ormonde died, Dec. 19th, 1817, and her husband died, Aug. loth, 1820, leaving no issue.*

The Codnor and Heanor part of the estates, comprising about 1,000 acres, were sold by the powers of an Act of Parliament by the trustees of the Marquis of Ormonde ; but the Codnor portion of the Estates on which the Chapel stood was sold to Samuel Woolley, of an old yeoman family long settled on their own lands in the neighbourhood, on the 7th April, 1827, and he left the estate to his eldest son, bearing his own name, who died in 1888, having directed his property to be sold. It was purchased on the 23rd February, 1889, by Frederick Channer Corfield, eldest son of the Rev. Frederick Corfield, J. P., late Rector of Heanor, of a family long seated at Chatwall Hall, in the Parish of Cardington, and before 1530 at Corfield, on the river Corve, in Corvedale, all in Shropshire.

* Lysons, in his " Derbyshire," page Iv., gives Butler, Marquis of
Ormonde, as one of the nobility of the County of Derby, and states that he
became possessed of certain estates by marriage with the grand -daughter of G. B. Clarke, Esq. This is clearly a mistake.

Copy of monumental square brass plate in Heanor Church Tower

" Here rests the body of John Clarke of Codnor Gent, who died August 5th
Ano. 1641, aged 88. He married Mary the daughter of John Kirkland of
Wheatcroft, by whom he had issue one daughter named Ellen who was
married to Gilbert Clarke Esquire of Somersall, by whom she had issue
Godfrey and John both living and Ellen who died young.
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. God crowned his life with length of days His age with strength (To him be prayse)
He gave him lands and riches store Which he bequeathed to Friends and poor They have his goods : his corps this stone Doth hide : his soule to heaven is gone. Virtu post funera uiuit."

Codnor Castle Derbyshire

Fig.2 Codnor Castle Derbyshire. Illustration by P.H.Currey 1891
Displayed courtesy of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society


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