Padley is a little offshoot from Grindleford, containing a few select houses, an ancient chapel steeped in history and a railway station where the line emerges from the second longest tunnel in the country.
The Totley tunnel was completed in 1893 and is 3 miles and 950 yards long, beaten only in length by the Severn tunnel and of course the Channel tunnel if that counts. Its construction brought the Sheffield to Manchester railway to the Derwent and Hope Valleys, which encouraged the construction of many houses in the area as homes for Sheffield commuters who then had a reliable means of transport.
Looking around Padley and Grindleford it is possible to see some of these large detached residences and Victorian villas dotted around the hillside amongst the tree covered slopes.
There is a wonderful old corn mill at Padley which has now been restored and converted into residential use. This was also used as a saw mill and wire-drawing mill years ago.
The wooded slopes around Padley contain oak trees which are thought to be over 300 years old, there are also many colonies of wood ants (formica rufa) whose ‘hills’ consist of large heaps of chewed up bark.
Burbage Brook tumbles down the hillside from the moors above, dashing through Padley as it trips and falls over huge gritstone boulders.
The now disused Bolehill quarry above Padley provided stone which was transported by train to construct the Howden and Derwent dams at the start of the 20th century. Chatsworth gritstone as it was also known made the best grindstones. The area around Padley was extensively quarried for grindstones until the end of the 18th century when cheaper stone was imported from France. The industry ceased in the middle of the 19th century by which time a pair of grindstones five feet in diameter would have cost £10.
On the moors above Padley is Higgar Tor (hill of God) which rises to over 1400 feet, whilst nearby is Carl Wark whose flattened summit lies at about 1200 feet. This natural plateau of some 2 acres with cliffs on two sides was fortified by man-made walls created from huge stones and boulders that can still be seen and are thought to be amongst the oldest stone walls in the country. Carl Wark or Caerl Wark as it is also known could date from the Dark Ages of around 1000BC. Alternatively it is thought by some to have been created in the Iron Age, contemporary with Fin Cop and Mam Tor.
The Longshaw Estate reaches down to Padley Woods and is owned by the National Trust. There are some 764 acres of moorland criss-crossed with public paths.
In Black’s guide to Derbyshire printed around 1904 there is the following reference: “the beautiful Padley Woods and other grounds of the Duke of Rutland used to stand open, but so much mischief was done, culminating in the wanton burning of a summer-house that they are now closed. Permission however for picnics etc is seldom refused to respectable parties and may be applied for to the Dukes Estate”!
Padley Chapel is now a religious shrine and the subject of an annual pilgrimage. To the rear of Padley Chapel are the ruined foundation and hearth stones of Padley Hall. There is also the base of a Newel staircase. The surviving building was the original gatehouse to Padley Hall and contains many interesting features including an old dovecote in the end wall.
Padley Hall has a fascinating story to tell etched with wealth, romance, devotion, faith and treachery. It began around 1415 when Robert Eyre came home from Agincourt to marry his sweetheart Joan Padley. She was so grateful for his safe return that she had Stoney Middleton church built in his honour (the tower and original font remain after 19th century reconstruction). Robert initiated the constructed of a new manor at Padley and their marriage produced 14 offspring. Robert also gave generously towards the upkeep of St Michael’s Church at Hathersage . The sanctus bell provided by him and his wife is engraved with their joint arms and bears the Latin inscription which is translated as ‘Pray for the souls of Robert Eyre and Joan his wife.’ Padley stayed in the name of Eyre for four generations until Arthur Eyre. Despite three marriages and numerous offspring, most of whom died in infancy, only one female child reached adulthood.
Anne Eyre was a most eligible heiress with many admirers. However, she married an equally financially desirable suitor in Sir Thomas Fitzherbert who was to inherit the Norbury Estate near Ashbourne. They made Padley their home and continued in the Catholic faith. Elizabeth 1 succeeded to the throne and her view on religion forbade the following or preaching of Catholicism. Priests ordained abroad (it was illegal in this country at the time) were treated as criminals guilty of high treason, punishable by death, as was anyone found harbouring them. Therefore Sir Thomas was regarded with suspicion and was eventually arrested in 1571. He was incarcerated in the Tower of London and died after 20 years imprisonment. Following his arrest, his brother John took over the upkeep of Padley Manor. John’s son (also named Thomas) was a treacherous little sneak, a real villain of the piece, who though he could prematurely secure Padley Estate for himself by betraying his father to the authorities. Thomas had converted to the Protestant faith and informed Richard Topcliffe, the Queen’s pursuivant of the celebration of mass in secrecy at Padley
Padley Hall was raided upon the orders of the Earl of Shrewsbury, the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire in the middle of the night on 12th July 1588.
Unknown to the raiders beforehand, there were two priests staying at Padley Hall that night. Robert Ludlam was born near Sheffield and Nicholas Garlick, who for seven years served as schoolmaster at Tideswell. They hid during the raid in purpose-built shelters (priests holes) disguised as part of the chimney, but were found and together with John Fitzherbert, four of his children and ten servants, were taken to Derby.
John’s son-in-law Thomas Eyre reputedly bribed the authorities with £10,000 to spare his father-in-law’s life. This as it turns out may have been just as bad as the death penalty as his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. In August 1590 he was taken to London and died two months later just eleven months before that of his elder brother. The priests Robert Ludlam and Nicholas Garlick were hung, drawn and quartered at St Mary’s Bridge, Derby. Their mutilated bodies were displayed for the public to view. However, Catholic sympathisers took them down that night and buried them.
The villainous Thomas Fitzherbert was not to benefit from his actions however. Contrary to his expectations, Shrewsbury himself took charge of the confiscated Padley Manor and following legal dispute, was granted custody of the Padley Estate by the Queen herself. In 1650 Padley Hall fell into disuse and was demolished. Much of the stone was used to build a nearby farmhouse.
In 1932 the remains of Padley Hall were bought by Monsignor Paine of Derby and Roman Catholic mass was held on the premises in 1933 after a break of 345 years. On the Thursday nearest to the 12th July an annual pilgrimage takes place attended by priests and public to remember the martyrs of Padley