“Evocative images clasp the mind as the countryside reveals the vestiges of the ancient people who lived on this limestone plain. The tantalising names of the Druid Inn and Nine Ladies Stones tempt us to explore the rocky remnants”
The writers on the Seventeenth Child route:
With short abridged extracts from The Literary Way, written by Terry Goble and published by The Creative Peak
Can you imagine what it must be like to be the seventeenth child within in a family? One such person is the first author in this chapter. However, he had no regrets at being one of a multitude and he took his father’s outlook on life, believing that hard work would bring its rewards. In this he wasn’t mistaken, for he combined strenuous efforts with talent in many fields, to leave us a rich legacy. He eldest brother was seventeen years older than him, and so he had not only his father, but his big brother as a role model, and it was that relationship which determined the first steps in his career.
After that he went from strength to strength and, all the writing about him, compliments him on his good nature and extensive hospitality. By coincidence, the author in the next walk shared many of the same passions and interests, although they were very different men in their nature. So for these two chapters we are turning the clock back to the Victorian times and entering the world of the antiquary. We also introduce a working female Victorian writer, who made her way in the world from humble beginnings. She was a prolific writer and became learned in history and archaeology, but her forte was the writing of novels centred on children. The local area is rife with sites of antiquity. There are many tumuli and other ancient sites, some of which are shrouded in mystery. We will pass by some of these sites in the this walk and the next. We will try to understand the passions they drove in our authors.
We leave the Derwent Valley and follow the route through a gentle and shallow dale. The characteristic dry stone walls and green fields show that we are returning to the Carboniferous Limestone country. The dale takes us towards the small, but very picturesque, village of Winster We immediately notice that this village is not the same as many on the White Peak plateau. Most of the villages we have walked through have two-story small cottages made from the local stone. Winster is different in that many of the houses along the main street are three-story and they represent a mixture of different styles. There are numerous alleys and tracks, which often lead through to a group of asymmetrically arranged small cottages. The impressive main street is dominated by the Market House, a fine old building effectively set in the street rather than along the edge of it. It is now in the care of the National Trust. At the far end, the Dower House appears to terminate the road, but it slips past it through tight corners. Near to the Market House is Winster Hall which is our focus of attention and where our author lived.
Llewellyn Jewitt was born in 1816, but it would be 52 years before he would settle in Winster Hall. He then played an active life within the community particularly in the sponsorship of the first water supply for the village. Let’s look as to how the seventeenth child can make an impression. His father was a school teacher and travelled widely in the Midlands, in search of the best jobs for him and his family. His father came from a large family in Sheffield and was due to follow the traditional cutlery apprenticeship. But he extended his learning, with the intention of taking a teaching role. After some success in Sheffield, he decided to open his own school. There was a problem, his only access to the right kind of premises and catchment area was in Chesterfield, which was about twelve miles away. He wasn’t daunted by the prospect. Very early every Monday morning he would set out on foot to stride out the miles to his school. On Saturday he would return to his family. This arrangement was necessary as he could not afford to move his wife and family to Chesterfield. His wife obviously fully supported him, because she would also walk to Chesterfield and back so that they could spend some time together.
The teacher-father inspired his offspring with a sense of learning. Llewellyn excelled and he would also gain a great deal from his eldest brother, Orlando, who was seventeen years older. He became very interested, and then very skilled at engravings. Llewellyn would follow suit and become very skilled at drawing and engraving to allow images to be printed. He clearly had talent in the arts and many of his books contain elaborate sketches. This he combined with goods skills in writing, which would allow him in his later life, while at Winster Hall, to produce a number of books with sketch illustrations.
The writing came after he was employed by an engraver to contribute to a number of magazines and periodicals. It was the combination of writing and engraving that gave him the edge over others. While living in London, he became a newspaper reporter, but his engraving skills gave him an advantage in doing his job. In today’s world when a story needs to be covered, say a major economic event or county show, the newspaper would sent along a reporter and a photographer. In Llewellyn’s day there was no photography, so the next best thing was to have a sketch of the scene or new equipment, and this is why he was so useful. He could report the story and do the sketch of the engraving, which would produce the line diagram for the publication.
When he was forty-three years-old, his career took a change of direction as he became senior librarian in Plymouth. He stayed there for four years before returning to Derbyshire and with yet another change of career direction, as he became the editor of the Derby Telegraph. He was also actively involved in the County Museum and the Natural History Society, which during his involvement merged with Derby Philosophical Society that had been founded by Erasmus Darwin.
Llewellyn’s lasting legacy is a extremely well researched multo-volumed book, entitled The Ceramic Art of Great Britain. The depth of these volumes, which run to over a thousand detailed pages, is appropriately summed up in the subtitle:
The Ceramic Art of Great Britain: from prehistoric times to the present day: Being a history of the ancient and modern pottery and porcelain works of the kingdom and their production of every class.
Llewellyn also continued the ceramics theme in another book which was a biography of the Wedgwood family, especially Josiah, the founder of the pottery dynasty. Llewellyn gives a detailed account of the life and work of Josiah Wedgwood from his early beginnings, when he had succumbed to smallpox and was crippled, through to his successful business that made pottery for royalty. We have mentioned before in several places Erasmus Darwin. One of Erasmus sons we heard of in Darley Dale, whilst another became a doctor in Shrewsbury. We will leave it to Llewellyn to explain the relationships:
On 3rd of January 1795, Josiah Wedgwood died. By his wife, he had a family of eight children. The eldest, Susannah, baptised at Burslem, on the 2nd January 1765, married Dr Robert Darwin, son of Dr Erasmus Darwin, was the mother along with other sons and daughters of Charles Darwin, author of the Origin of Species.
The Wedgwoods – Llewellyn Jewitt
So the famous Charles Darwin had a paternal grandfather in Erasmus Darwin and maternal grandfather Josiah Wedgwood.
Llewellyn had a great interest in antiquities and this was fostered during his friendship with Thomas Bateman, a Peak District man, who we will meet shortly. It was during his prolific writing period while at Winster that he wrote several works about archaeology, such as:
Graves, Mound and their Contents: A Manual of Archaeology as exemplified in the Burial of the Celtic, Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon period.
Half an Hours Among Some English Antiquities was the title of another of his works that was written at Winster Hall. This book ran to a second edition and to give some idea of the detail, it is illustrated with three hundred and twenty engravings. This book was Llewellyn’s attempt to popularise antiquities.
In addition to the antiquities Llewellyn took a keen interest in historic houses. He wrote books, again with a large number of illustrations, about the stately homes of England and separate books about Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall as they were both within easy reach of Winster. As typified by his roles in historical and museums societies, he took a great interest is his adopted county of Derbyshire. This is exemplified in a ‘lighter’ work as he draws together the traditional ballads and songs of Derbyshire.
Llewellyn, as we have seen, used his journalism and drawing skills combined with his historical knowledge to produce and edit many works. He rarely went that step further to enter the field of creative writing. When he did so it was only to produce a private publication with a circulation of twenty-five. It was a book of poetry which he called Antennae. It was dedicated to his family and friends and held a collection of poems of about 160 pages, mainly dedicated to ‘poetic’ subjects such as the seasons, and aspirations. There is one poem that stands out as it is about a person. We have already mentioned her on The Literary Way, and she would have been very much in the news as a local heroine during Llewellyn’s time. It is, of course, Florence Nightingale. The poem comprises of 51 four line verses. The first half of the poem sets the scene of battle and conflict so let’s look at when he introduces Florence:
Woman to that scene of carnage,
To that field besmeared with gore,
Wends her quiet, gentle passage,
Lands upon that distant shore
As an angel fresh from heaven
Lights upon this sinful earth,
And refreshes by her presence
Those erewhile doom’d to pain and death,
Florence Nightingale – Llewellyn Jewitt
Llewellyn was well liked by his friends and known for his hospitality and clearly enjoyed inviting people to stay with his family. As we can see he grew in many directions throughout his career and became very respected both in terms of his archaeological knowledge, as well as his succinct and illustrated way of writing. Llewellyn was seventy years-old when he died not long after being given a civil list pension. His wife had died a few months earlier. We follow the path through the churchyard and over the fields to the ancient routeway called Portway. The lane continues after the Elton road down to the main road, which we cross, to join the path to Birchover. We round the hill and begin to come down into Birchover. On our left is the vicarage and on the right is the small church. At the end of the lane we come out by the Druid Inn, and as the name suggests, it resounds with mysteries from the past. Just before the Druid Inn is the stile into Rowtor Rocks.
As we wander around these rocks with their captivating features and look at the view across the White Peak from them, let us understand a little background before we introduce our next author. The vicarage that we have just passed was built on the site of the old Rowtor Hall, which had been built in the mid-1600s by Thomas Eyre. Later he added a private chapel, which is now the church. The hall had become derelict over the years and remained so for many years well into the ninteenth century. There are various rock carvings in Rowtor Rocks including ‘armchairs’ where it is believed Thomas would sit to write his sermons.
There is a Victorian children’s book that uses Rowtor Rocks as one of its key settings. The book was written by Eliza Meteyard and published in 1857. Let’s look at Eliza and then see how she placed Rowtor Rocks in her story. She was born in Liverpool, but by the age of seventeen she would be living in London. She worked for a short while for her brother, but she was determined to earn her own way in the world, so she set about writing for a living. One of Eliza many fellow authors was Mary Howitt, who was a prolific writer in her own right and a good friend of Charles Dickens. We will find her involvement in The Literary Way, when we are in Eyam. In Mary’s autobiography, compiled by one of her family after her death, there is a letter from Mary to one of her friends. In the letter there is a reference to The Doctor’s Little Daughter, which was written by Eliza as a semi-biographical novel about her childhood.
As we know, Eliza Cook, who wrote about Dovedale, came from a poor family and was determined to keep away from poverty by writing. Eliza Cook was two years younger than Eliza Meteyard. The two Elizas knew and supported each other in their writing. In fact, when Eliza Cook started her Journal the first article, excluding her own writings, was Three Hyacinths before Heaven by Silverpen. The pseudonym belonged to Eliza Meteyard.
Eliza Meteyard was a prolific and focused writer of children’s and adult fiction, as well as some notable factual books, such as, The Life of Josiah Wedgwood: From his Private Correspondence and His Family. She also wrote another book about the younger Wedgwoods, and a manual for collectors of Wedgwood. Her connections with the Wedgwood family, who we remember were joined in marriage to the Darwins, led to her sponsorship and success in obtaining a civil list pension. It was Charles Darwin, who led the sponsorship that finally earned her a state pension.
In her fictional writing she found suitable places to include her understanding of pottery making and the collection of valuable pieces. Her love of animals also comes across in her work, especially the children’s novels, which feature not only little girls, as the principal characters, but they have a full menagerie of pets. She also became very knowledgeable about antiquarian and pre-historic matters as we shall see in the next chapter.
So let us turn to the children’s tale set at Rowtor Rocks. The principal character in the book is the little girl called Lillian, who is the daughter of the local squire and they live in the main house of the village. Our focus of attention is called Quarr rocks in the book and the ruined house that stands below them. Within the novel that are various descriptions of the rocks, their caves and underground passages.
There could not have been a better neighbourhood for Llewellyn, the founder and lifelong editor of the antiquarian journal, The Reliquary, to live. We have said that he and his family enjoyed hospitality and Llewellyn frequently invited learned and interested friends to a stay, so that they could spend some days opening tumuli and other burial mounds belonging to the pre-historic inhabitants of these hills and dales. It is towards some of these that we will head in the next chapter. Eliza Meteyard turned herself into a professional writer and show her skills in the varying areas of children’s’ stories, adult novels and a number of non-fiction works, as well as numerous articles under her non-de-plume ‘Silverpen’.
On this walk we have covered two authors, the first Llewellyn because he lived in Winster for the latter part of his life and the second Eliza who wrote a book about Rowtor Rocks, which are about a mile away from Winster Hall. Uncannily they were both born in the same year. Just a coincidence you might think, but in 1865 they both produced an in-depth book about the life of Josiah Wedgwood, including his private correspondence. Also both books were dedicated to the same person, William Gladstone, the future Prime Minister, but that is less remarkable as he had just opened the Wedgwood Centre in Burslem.
We can only find one reference, in Llewellyn’s diary, to them ever meeting and that was two years before the Wedgwood books. It is brief and fairly uninformative.
1863 October 8th. — Went to see Eliza Meteyard (Silverpen). She was delighted to see me, and I staid some time with her.
The Life and Death of Llewellyn Jewitt – William Goss