The Barrow Knight

Thomas Bateman had to marry respectally in order to inherit Middleton Hall

“The antiquities bring alive Stanton Moor, with its distant views and commemorative tower. At Alport we join the Bradford stream, with it low-level dams and wooded riverside path, which guides us into the unspoilt and picturesque village of Middleton.”

Birchover to Middleton across Stanton Moor : Circular Walk - Map and Directions : Google Earth Tour for this Walk

The writers on The Barrow Knight route:

Georgiana Cavendish - Thomas Bateman – Eliza Meteyard

With short abridged extracts from The Literary Way, written by Terry Goble and published by The Creative Peak


The Church Farm clock has a beautiful chime that makes you stop and listen. It is in the picturesque village of Middleton-by-Youlgreave. Our theme on the last walk, an author fascinating by antiquities, continues here, but what a different character! There are some people who stand out in a crowd of contemporaries, because their interest turns into a passion. In the 1840s it took time, money and a great deal of ingenuity to be passionate about archaeology. In this walk we will try to understand the man, who put some much drive and energy into his dedication for uncovering the knowledge of past times. A Victorian journalist, unusually a young women, visited the village for a factual interview and left with the inspiration to write a novel about what she had seen. With these two chapters about antiquities, the most appropriate route is through the countryside that is littered with them. Some of which have been clearly explained, while other have engendered mysteries. We will see cairns and laid out stones that have been there for centuries, but our first stop will be a gritstone tower. Antiquities are fine and honourable, but there is nothing like some scandal.


On Stanton Moor a short distance from Birchover is the Earl Grey Tower. This edifice was built by the local landowner to commemorate the passing of the 1832 Reform Act, which was a major step in changing the franchise districts in this country. The old ‘rotten’ boroughs, which only had a few people under the direction of a landowner, were abolished and the growing cities given far more of the elected members of parliament. But it is to the eponymous Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister, when the Reform Act was passed that we want to pay our attention.

As well putting his name to the tea, although its real origins are somewhat unclear, he was also a well-known name in London society. One of the centres of attraction of the fashionable sect was Devonshire House in London, with the hostess being the young Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Charles Grey joined the throng and then pursued the married Georgiana relentlessly. Finally, he achieved his ambition, but it did not work out well for the Duchess, as she became pregnant by Charles in 1791. When the Duke of Devonshire found out, she was sent away to mainland Europe to have the baby and it was taken away at birth and given to the Grey family to raise. However, it was not Charles Grey that would be responsible for the baby, for he was soon committed to be married. He married Mary Ponsonby and they had sixteen children. The Duchess of Devonshire’s illegitimate baby was Eliza Courtney. Georgiana could only occasionally see the child, who was not told who her mother was until after Georgiana’s death, but she did write some poems about the enforced separation. Eliza Courtney went on to marry and named her first daughter, Georgiana. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York is a descendant of Eliza Courtney.

As we leave the Earl Grey Tower we pass the Bronze Age Nine Ladies Stone, which English Heritage manage as a national monument. We then pass through Stanton-in-Peak and towards the confluence of the River Lathkill and Bradford at Alport. We then enjoy the delightful walk, past the small dams with their metal sluices, along Bradford Dale.

Ten Years Digging

Middleton-by-Youlgreave is a old quaint village unspoilt by the modern trappings of the twenty-first century. As we come into the village near the church, we can hear the delightful chimes of Church Farm clock. We come out into the central square of the village. The limestone cottages neatly line the periphery, with the large buildings, and their mullioned windows, giving the historical ambiance, which is complemented by the sleepy nature of this settlement. The village stands on a rise above Bradford Dale, along which we have just walked.

The man who is the focus of our attention in Middleton is Thomas Bateman. Before we look at the activities of Thomas, let’s put him in context of the village for which he and his family have left a clear legacy. He was born into a Derbyshire land owning family, one of whose family seats was Middleton Hall, which is just along the road north west from the square in the village centre. Thomas’s father died early and he was raised by his grandfather who lived at the Hall. Around 1820 a lot happened for Thomas’s grandfather. Not only did he have the benefit of his new grandson Thomas, but he also re-built Middleton Hall. As we have seen at Snelston and Ilam, it was a popular time for building, and as with the other two villages, he reshaped and remodelled some of the buildings in the village itself. This included the building of a Congregational Church just off from the village square. The living was determined by the grandfather, who actively supported this church. However, the church itself does not have a graveyard, with the exception on one elaborate railed grave. This the resting place of Thomas Bateman, who would only be thirty-nine years-old when he died. Although he had a short life, it was one in which he packed a great deal and was not without its controversy. We can see the ambitions of Thomas early on, when at the age of twenty-four, he decided that he would build his own hall in the village. Just out on the Youlgreave road is Lomberdale Hall.

Thomas’s father before his own early death developed a keen interest in archaeology and opened a few of the local pre-historic burial mounds, with which the local area abounds. His young son accompanied him on some of the digs and was obviously taken with the excavations. His interest gradually increased, until it became his overwhelming passion particularly between 1848 and 1858, when he opened hundreds of barrows. Let’s first look at his archaeological work. His major writing for this period was a book entitled, Ten years Diggings in Celtic and Saxon Grave Hills. He confined himself mainly to local Derbyshire barrows, but he did have two loyal helpers, who independently completed some excavations in nearby Staffordshire and near York. All the significant finds from all three counties were taken back to Lomberdale Hall, where Thomas would display his collection.

Thomas methods came in for fierce criticism. It was said that he was too keen, and his methods lacked a systematic approach. His work was at the time when the extensive opening of barrows was only in its infancy. Today’s methods are vastly different with much more care taken in the recording of the approach and details of the finds. Even so, Thomas became a celebrity in the archaeological circles and a leading member of national bodies, which were established around that time. However, he was his own individual man and often shunned attending conferences, where he had been asked to speak. Also he had a number of acquaintances he met through his digging, but many of these did not stand the test of time and he was often less than amiable towards visitors. One such person he fell out with over some national society matters was the Reverend Stephen Isaacson.

During any dig various visitors and notaries were often present. Thomas would be supervising the excavation, but in keeping with the times, it would be the labourers, who would be doing the physical work. This left time for the watchers to amuse themselves when nothing of interest was taking place. Extensive lunches and shelter would often be provided by people from the estate. During one such period of inactivity during a dig on the Staffordshire border at Wetton, Stephen Isaacson wrote light poem about Thomas Bateman and his digging, Barrow Digging by the Barrow Knight. It was a title by which Thomas would come to be known.

Will he inherit?

The nearest town to Middleton is Bakewell and Thomas had a very mixed relationship with the people in that town. Before he built Lomberdale Hall, when he was a young man, he went to live in Bakewell. This caused his grandfather a considerable amount of distress because he lived with a local woman. But the old man would not be defeated and when he finally died in his eighties, he left a caveat in his will. It was spelled out very clearly. If he did not cease his relationship with the local woman, within three months, then he would be disinherited from the entire estate which was of a considerable size.

Thomas therefore made events happen very quickly. He proposed and was accepted by the daughter of one of his workers. It was the man who normally led the logistical operations and directly managed the physical digging. What happened to his previous lover is not known. The executors of his grandfather’s will, accepted his marriage and he inherited Middleton Hall and the estates as well as keeping his own, Lomberdale Hall. The building of his hall caused controversy in Bakewell. The old church was in danger of collapse and it needed to be rebuilt. It is unclear how Thomas obtained a number of relics and stones from the church, and many criticised his underhand methods, but many of the church keepsakes were built into the fabric of Lomberdale Hall. At one point Thomas extended Lomberdale Hall just so that he could exhibit more of his collection, which gradually extended from the artifacts he had collected personally, to other historical goods and documents. The scale of his collection meant that he entertained many visitors who came to his house as one would go to a museum.

Dora and Her Papa

We have learned on the last walk about the writings of Eliza Meteyard. Her interest in historical information developed when she visited Middleton to meet with Thomas Bateman. It was a journalistic meeting, and whilst there Eliza observed Thomas and his family. Many of Eliza’s fictional works focused on servants and workers. She knew that Thomas had married one of his worker's daughters and felt that, with a few modifications, it would make a good story. Dora and Her Papa was published in 1868 and featured Dora, as a young child, who goes everywhere with her widowed father who is an archaeologist. In the same village there is a niece who acts as a working companion to her old aunt. The niece takes an interest and becomes friends with little Dora. The book fits into children’s range of books that were written by Eliza. She used her knowledge of Thomas Bateman and his methods in the story.

Early Death

Although Llewellyn Jewitt and Thomas Bateman would be born within four years and knew each other very well because they shared the same enthusiasm for the remains of ancient cultures, they were never to be neighbours, because the Barrow Knight from Middleton died early before the age of forty. Llewellyn did not move into Winster Hall until after his death. However, in the year before Thomas suddenly died, Llewellyn had launched the Reliquary Journal – A Depository of Precious Relics – Legendary, Biographical, and Historical. The opening year saw five articles by Llewellyn, three by Thomas and two by Eliza Meteyard. It would be the second volume of the Reliquary that would carry the lengthy obituary of Thomas Bateman written by Llewellyn.

Let’s rest awhile in Middleton

The walk through the village of Middleton reflects on Thomas Bateman. There is the old Hall where the grandfather lived, who nearly cut Thomas out of his inheritance. We then encounter the Chapel with Thomas’s grave and his memorial behind it. His writing gave us information about the ruins tucked down in the trees by Castle Farm and finally as we near the edge of the settlement we reach Lomberdale House. He built this as a young man and then extended it to house an extensive collection. But the fortunes he built were not to last long. His son would lose all his money and estate. Thomas's collection was sold off. Eliza Meteyard closely associated with both Llewellyn Jewitt and Thomas Bateman was a hard working writer, who earned her living from her works, which spanned serious historical articles to children’s novels. But The Literary Way is not finished with Eliza Meteyard yet, as she will be with us to help us unravel where history and fiction merge.