Ruins of Padley HallAmidst the rolling hills and occasional leafy glades of the Peak District I came across Padley Hall, a once great Elizabethan manor house, now nothing more than the foundations of it’s stone walls, ruined and broken.

But these stones have the history of Padley written into them – an altar stone hidden for three hundred and fifty years, the hearth stones of a great fireplace, the steps, the foundations.

Although there is no entry for Padley – nor nearby Grindleford – in the Domesday book, the land was the King’s own, property of William the Conqueror, and taken from it’s Anglo Saxon possessors.  Maybe it once belonged to Godgyth at Stoney Middleton; or Leofnoth and Leofric, brothers who held Hathersage when the Conqueror came in 1066.

Or maybe it belonged to the old king Edward the Confessor, for he held land in the area too.

Either way, the Conqueror soon disposed of it to the De Bernac family, probably in return for their support in during the conquest, but no doubt with an eye to placing Norman Lords in the unruly and disruptive north as well. In keeping with the times, they changed their family name to Padley and developed the land, building a great Norman manor house here, although nothing remains above ground of that building.

Roman Catholic Chapel at Padley HallWhat does remain are the well preserved yet ruinous walls of a later medieval building, finished around 1350 by a Padley family that had continued to live and prosper in the area. Then, some time in the early 15th century the male line faltered leaving the surviving daughter, Joan, left as sole heiress.

To secure her future, she married Robert Eyre and they made Padley their home, their family continuing to prosper and completing the manor with a fine gatehouse, a status symbol of the day.

Four generations of the Eyre family lived at Padley Hall until, in the 1530s, the same situation that had brought the Padley era to a close struck the Eyres. With  no male heir to inherit the estate the manor passed to a daughter, Anne.

To secure the estate’s future, she married Sir Thomas Fitzherbert of Norbury in 1534. But despite the surety of marriage and the myriad twists and turns in Padley’s history over the centuries, darkness lay ahead as England slipped into anti-Catholic fervour and the devout, recusant Fitzherbert’s and all those around them faced betrayal, imprisonment and death (about which I will be writing more later this summer).

During this tortured time the manor was confiscated and passed through various hands before eventually returning to the family. The direct ownership died out in with William Fitzherbert of Swynnerton, a cousin, who inherited the property in 1649 but was forced to sell because of recusancy fines and heavy debts.

It seems that Padley Manor was never lived in again: a subsequent owner pulled the house down and sold the stone as building material. The Gatehouse remained intact and was used as a cow shelter and hay barn, until it was bought by the Diocese of Nottinghamshire in 1931 and converted into a Roman Catholic Chapel.

The original altar stone, that had once been part of the family’s private chapel within the house, was found in the garden in 1934, and is now on display in the loft of the chapel after 350 years in hiding, like it’s former Catholic owners.