The Derbyshire parish of Youlgreave lies divided between the larger administrative divisions of the hundred of High Peak and the wapentake of Wirksworth. The smaller divisions of the parish comprise of the townships of Middleton and Smerrill, and the chapelry of Elton in the wapentake of Wirksworth, and the townships of Birchover, Gratton and Stanton, the hamlets of Alport and Conksbury, and the chapelry of Winster in the High Peak hundred. The township of Youlgreave lies partly in both the hundred and the wapentake.[1]


During the reign of Edward I the manor of Youlgreave was held by the Earl of Lancaster and tenanted by Ralph de Shirley. By the time of Domeday in 1086 it was one of many in the possession of Henry de Ferrars. Sometime afterwards the manor passed to the family of Gilbert alias Kniverton, who had probably settled in Youlgreave on marriage to the heiress of the Rossington family. Elaine, heiress of the Gilberts, bought it in 1629 to Charles Barnsley, esquire. Later the manor passed to the Buxtons until being purchased in 1685 by John, Earl of Rutland, which has passed by descent to the Dukes of Rutland.


Before the Norman Conquest one of the two owners of the manor of Youlgreave was named Colle. Around 1150 Colle’s grandson, Robert, gave to the Abbey of St Mary in Leicester the church along with its chapels, lands and tithes (p315). The fact that the manor remained in the hands of the same family meant that the Conquest had little, if any, visual difference to the inhabitants of the settlement.


The vicarage was established in 1224. Although Robert had endowed the Abbey with all of the church’s belongings, the Abbey passed to the vicarage (although retaining the tithes of lambs, wool and minerals) for its endowment all oblations and altar dues, the tithes of corn and hay in Gratton, and two-thirds of the tithes of corn and hay in the township of Smerril. For this, the vicar was to defray all the customary expenses of the church, as well as financing the positions of two chaplains and a deacon.


Patronage of the church lay with the Abbey of St Mary until the suppression of the Abbey in 1539, after which it passed to the Cavendish family, beginning with Sir William Cavendish and his heirs. By the time of Cox it was in the hands of the Duke of Devonshire. The vicarage was augmented by Queen Anne’s Bounty in 1722, the money having being raised by a subscription to which both the Duke of Rutland and the Duke of Devonshire contributed.


The earliest visual evidence of the present church dates from the Norman period and the large dimensions of the circular nave pillars suggest the original building to have been of considerable size. As with any church the building was considerably altered and expanded throughout later centuries to meet the demands of the community’s increasing population.


In 1746 the churchwardens accounts record the erection of ‘a loft for singers’ in the west part of the nave, access to which was by a stone staircase within the building (p319) which was probably removed in 1869-70 when the church was restored by R norman Shaw, the same time the new flooring, seating and heating was installed.


What the church looked like is best gleaned from Shaw’s account of 23rd February 1869: ‘The whole of the church has been filled up with cumbrous and ill-arranged pews – partly made up of what has been some fine old oak seating – partly of more modern work in oak, but the great bulk in mean deal of little or no value (p321-322).


Some of the inhabitants are immortalised for eternity within the church. The oldest monument in the church dates from the late C12th or early C13th believed to be that of Sir John Rossington. This stone effigy shows a cross-legged knight holding a heart in clasped hands, wearing a quilted gambeson and a cross-hilted sword on his left thigh. It’s current position against the north wall of the chancel is probably not its original location.  The Rossingtons were important in the neighbourhood at an early date. They possibly originated from Rossington near Doncaster. The elder branch became absorbed into the Cokayne family by their marriage with the heiress, and at a later period Gilbert alias Kniverton, married the heiress of a younger branch of Rossington (p326-7).


The monument of Thomas Cokayne and a mural to the Gilberts (both at one time at the end of the south aisle, being originally the Lady chapel dedicated to St Mary and founded by the Vernon family. Thomas Cokayne of Harthill Hall died in 1488. His tomb is 31/2 feet in length. The head of the knight in armour rests upon a helmet surmounted by a cock, the crest of the Cokaynes. Round the neck is the Yorkist collar of suns and roses with the white lion of March appendant, abd the feet rests on a lion. The body is clad in plate armour with gorget and skirt of chain mail. It was once considerably mutilated, especially around the legs, but was restored by descendants of the family in 1873. When the antiquarian writer Francis Bassano visited the church about 1710 he commented on the tomb, then in the east end of the south aisle (his pedigree is covered in detail on p328) as well as a brief account of his death, quarrelling in Pooley Park on his way to Polesworth church with Thomas Burdette where he fell to the ground and was mortally wounded and from where he was brought to the church at Youlgreave for burial.


The Gilbert monument is at the east end of the north aisle, previously to the restoration was in the chancel, and at an earlier period against the south wall of the south aisle as noted by Bassano, although it is hypothesised that its original location was as a memorial reredos at the back of the chantry altar of the lady chapel in this aisle. The monument has twenty one small figures carved in relief in alabaster. The inscription reads: ‘Hic jacet sub lapide corp Roberti Gylbert de Yolgreff generosi, et Johe cosortis sue, que Joha obit, 11o die Novembris Ao Dni MCCCCLXXXXII, qui quid Robert clausura hujus capelle fiery fecit in Ao superadict, et idem Robert obit’.

Robert Gilbert died 1492 and was probably the grandson of Robert Kniverton alias Gilbert, the first of the Gilberts of Youlgreave mentioned in the visitation pedigrees. (His pedigree is given on p329-330).


On the floor of the south aisle is a small brass effigy of a lady in early C17th costume. Her hair is brushed back from her temples, the skirts of the long-sleeved gown, which is cut very low in the front, project abruptly from the hips, and are left open in front to show the arabesque pattern of the petticoat. Beneath is the inscription:

‘Fridswide Gilbert to the grave

Hath resigned her earthly part,

Her sovle to God, that first it gave,

On angels wings went with her hart.

A vertvovs maide she livd and died,

Hvrtful to none but good to all,

Religious, modest, hating pride,

These vertves crowne her funerall.

John Gilbert, marchant taylor of Londo-, brother to her’.

The monument does not contain a date but the register records ‘Fridesweda Gilbert, ye daughter of Francis Gilbert, spinster, buried 8 Augt. 1604’. Her father was Sir Francis Gilbert commemorated in the mural monument. He married Joan, daughter of William Longford, of Longford. They had a large family of whom Fridswide seems to have been the third daughter, and John the London merchant, the third son. The eldest sons, Nicholas and Francis, continued to reside at Youlgreave.


Against the north wall of the north aisle is a monument to roger Rowe and his wife of Alport dated 1613. Below their effigies are those of their six boys and two girls.


Under the tower is a stone, previously in the chancel, inscribed ‘Hic jacet Raphaelis Bradbury de Youlgreave, qui obit vicesimo primo die aprillis Anno Dni 1685’. The registers confirm that Raphael, the son of Francis Bradbury, was baptised 22nd February 1602.


Other tombs in the church include Charles Greaves of Woodhouse (d.1720), John Eley of Alport, Major-Commandant of the Artillery in the East India Company’s Service, Francis Fox, gent (d.1660).


To the south of the church, near the porch, are the steps of the old churchyard cross and a large basement stone. This supports the metal plate of a sundial on which is engraved ‘Mr Joseph Smedley Churchwarden 1757’.


Youlgreave Parochial Accounts


The registers and parish books of All Saints’, Youlgreave, are the most complete and interesting in the county. The registers begin in 1558, and are for the most part in excellent preservation, and legible. The churchwardens’ accounts are exceptionally perfect for a long period. They commence in 1604, and are continued in two volumes (interspersed from 1702 downwards with the constables accounts) to 1755. From that date, these accounts were kept for a considerable time on separate sheets of paper, but we have recovered those between 1772 to 1786 from a store of waste paper in a chest beneath the tower. The constables accounts, subsequent to the date when they were kept in the same book with those of the churchwardens, are in a separate volume, and extend from 1759 to 1829. Another volume contains the accounts of the overseers of the poor from 1713 to 1754. All of these volumes have been carefully bound by the present vicar, the Rev. R. C. Roy. A large number of orders of settlement and indentures of parish apprentices, with the names and seals of the Justices, together with various other papers of local interest, chiefly of the C18th, have also been classified and put into order.


The future historian of the parish will find a vast stock of material ready to hand, and if such a work was ever accomplished it would once more be seen how the history of even a remote village is but the history of the nation in little; how national victories were announced on the church bells, and national disasters by the proclamation of a form of prayer; how local self-government became gradually developed in the office of justice, constable and overseer of the poor; how the press gang worked its cruel way to man the ships and fill the regiments of the Georges; how the good folk of Youlgreave sent forth a spy to watch the movements of Charles Edward in 1745; and how they prepared to defend themselves by giving the constable a new bill-head, and repairing his old one; how unmerciful was the treatment of lunatics; and free was the consumption of ale, on the smallest possible provocation, at the parish’s expense; - these and a thousand other minutiae, all of them possessing some point of interest, can be gleaned from these annals of a parish, to say nothing of the perfect genealogy of every family, together with an account of their varying circumstances, that might be constructed by their aid. The following are some of the entries extracted from the registers:-


1601. Uppon the 8th day of this moneth of Februarii being Septuagessima was the conspiracy by the Earles of Essex, Rutland and Southampton with their confederates in London.

Uppon the 19th day being Thursday, Essex and Southampton were arraigned at Westminster and found guilty by the peiares of this land for high treason.

The 25th day of the said moneth of Feb. being the first day of lent, was Robert earle of Essex executed within the tower of London.


1602. March 23rd. Our most gracious soveraigne Lady Elizabeth quene of Englande, France and Ireland, departed this lyffe uppon Wednesday, after she had reigned most peacablye 44 yeares, 4 moneths, 11 daies.


1602. March 29th. James King of Scotland was proclaimed Kinge of England, France and Ireland at Baunkewell uppon Monday. Whom the Lord preserve.

And a gallant King and Queen

Was they and happey in their reigns.


1614. A Latin entry, entitled ‘Hyems Nivosa’ is in the registers, and the following extended translation in the churchwardens’ accounts:


A Memoriall of The Great Snow

Beginninge Jan 16.

This year 1614’5 Jan. 16 began the greatest snow snow (sic) which ever fell uppon the earth, within man’s memorye. It covered the earth fyve quarters deep upon the playne. And for heaps or drifts of snow, they were very deep; so thatpassengers both horse and foot, passed over gates, hedges and walles. It fell at 10 severall tymes and the last was the greatest, to the greate admiration and feare of all the land, for it came from the fowre parts of the world, so that all entryes were full, yea the south part as well as these mountaynes. It continued by daily encreasing until the 12th day of March (without the sight of any earth, eyther uppon the hills or valleyes) uppon which day (being the Lorde’s Daye) it began to decrease; and so by little and little consumed and wasted away, till the eight and twentieth day of May for thenall the heapes or drifts of snow were consumed, except one uppon Kinder’s Scowt, which lay till Witson week and after.  As well as the cattle perishing Stowe mentioned in his Chronicle that ‘as well as young and old. In some places divers devised snow ploughs to cleare the ground, and to fodder cattell; this snow was very dangerous to all travellers.’


Hynderances and Losses in This Peake Cutry By The Snow Abovesayd.

1 It hindered the seed tyme. A very cold spring.

2 It consumed much fodder (multitude of sheep, cause, continuance of cold weather)

3 And many wanted fewell; otherwyse few were smothered in the fall or drownded in the passage; in regard the floods of water were not great though many.

‘The Name of our Lord be praysed’.

The spring was so cold and so late that much cattell was in very great daunger and some dyed. There fell also ten lesse snowes in Aprill, some a foote deep, some lesse, but none continued long. Uppon May day, in the morning, instead of fetching flowers, the youthes brought in flakes of snow, which lay above a foot deep uppon the moores and mountaynes. All these aforesaid snows vanished away and thoed with little or no rayne.


1615 – A Dry Summer

There was no rayne fell uppon the earth from the 25th day of March until the 2nd day of May, and there then was but one shower; after which there fell none tyll the 18th day of June, and then there fell another; after that there fell none at all tyll the 4th day of August, after which tyme there was sufficient rayne uppon the earth; so that the greatest part of this land, specially the south parts, were burnt upp, both corne and hay. An ordinary Sumer load of hay was at 2li. and little or none to be got for money.

This part of the peake was very sore burnt upp, only Lankishyre and Cheshyre had rayne ynough all the Sumer; and both corne and hay sufficient. There was very little rayne fell the last winter, but snowe onely.


The churchwardens’ accounts are also interspersed with occasional interpellations, of which the subjoined are specimens. On pages 218, 219 of the first volume, are lists of persons excommunicated between 1677 and 1693 for such offences as clandestine marriages, having bastard children, and non-payment of Easter dues; it is added in another hand – ‘all remitted after the death of Queen Mary, Anno 1696’. There is also a list of briefs, with the amount collected for each, extending from 1609 to 1719.


1614. July 8. Md. That Thomas Swetnam, Vicar de Yolgrave, hath cawsed a seat to be made ex impensis suis within the chancell of the sayd psh church on the north syde thereof, by the hand of Thomas Stone and Richard Halley, of Gratton, in the sayd psh, husbandmen, to and for the use and uses hereafter following, namely, for the use and behoofe of his wyfe now being during his naturall lyfe, and after his decease, to descend for the use of the wyfe of the next incumbent, and so to continue successively, ex dat the eight day July A. D. 1614. (Signed by the vicar, the two workmen, and the three churchwardens, as witnesses).


1708. Memd. That it is agreed at this meeting that the stocks and pinfold for ye future by every respective Hamlett be repaired, and not charged in the township’s accounts.


1731. May 14. There was given two salvers for bread and two stoops for the wine, all made of pure silver, and weighing by averdupois five pounds and half an ounce altogether, by Mrs Mary Hill of Woodhouse, during her life-time to the Parish of Youlgreave, with her name engraved thereon only to prevent it being imbeziled away : In testimony of which I have hereunto st my hand.

Danl Hardinge, curt of Youlgreave.


1746. April 30. Wheras several Robberies have been committed within the Liberty or Hamlet of Youlgreave, and the people Rob’d have been from their poverty unable to prosecute the offenders, it is agreed at this general meeting of the Inhabitants that for the future when any such poor Person shall be robbed, the Overseer of the Poor shall defray the expense of prosecuting, etc. Signed (inter alia) Bache Thornhill.


(Inventory from the first page of the volume containing the accounts)

A Memoriall of all ye bookes belonging to ye Parish Church of Yolgrave, ut infra :-

One Byble of the largest volume.

One Communion booke.

Paraphrasis Erasmi.

Cannons and Constitutions.

An old register booke in parchment.

A new register booke in parchment.

A defence of the right of Kings made by King James I.

A booke of Homilies (in folio) 1637.

Another in quarto.

A table of Affinity and Consaunguinitie.

This booke containing all accompts.

Jewels worke.

A discovery of ye new-founde land, written by Captaine Richard Whitbourne.

Mason de Minesterio Anglicano.



One Communion cup of silver, with a cover of silver. One carpet for the table. A linen cloth for the same. One supies. One quishen for the pulpit. Six loose and two great formes. Three coffers. One hack, one spade, one beere. A decree or definitive sentence betwixt the psh church and the two chapels, Elton and Winster. A rate or lay for the bylding of the steeple. An agreement indented betwixt the psh church and the chappell of Elton, all which are in the custodie of Nicholas Gilbert, gent. A frame to cast lead in. A little instrument of yron to shoot belropes withall. Three formes made of ye old Communion table. One flaggon given to the church by Mr Christopher Fullwood, Esq., of Myddleton. (The last two items in this inventory are in a later hand).


1708. Memd. That it is agreed at this meeting that the stocks and pinfold for ye future by every respective Hamlett be repaired, and not charged in the township’s accounts.