Old Duffield Village, Church, and Castle,
With some Personal Reminiscences.

A Lecture given before the Duffield Branch of the Church of England Men's Society, Dec., 8th., 1921,

Norman Occupation - The Castle


Now we pass to another national epoch which had great results in Duffield parish. The Conqueror invaded England, and the Normans gradually swarmed over the country. The manor of Duffield, and no less than 114 lordships in this county were granted by William to one of his barons, Henry de Ferrars, who had rendered him great service. Siward, the Saxon thane, was driven out, and the puny defences of a Saxon stronghold were replaced by a Norman Castle, with a prodigiously strong and massive keep, the walls averaging 15 feet in thickness, one which far exceeded any other Norman keep, with the single exception of the Tower of London.See note below.

This Siward, who held the manor of Duffield in the time of Edward the Confessor, was a man of some position and importance. He held Catton and Croxall, and also Breadsall and Morley, which were appendages to Duffield. (Victorian History of England.)

There is no time to follow the fortunes of this great and noble family of Ferrars, but I just mention in passing that in the great Battle of the Standard, fought against the Scots at Northallerton in 1138, a Robert Ferrars led his Derbyshire men, and it is a fact of history that they played the leading part in winning the victory, and Robert Ferrars was rewarded by being created Earl of Derby. William Ferrars, his son, took his men-at-arms and vassals on one of the crusades, and was killed at the Siege of Acre. I mention this because, undoubtedly, Duffield men would follow their lord in these exploits, and play a manly part on the battlefield as have their successors of today.

The sixth earl, however - young, wayward, and fickle - so repeatedly rebelled and led risings against his king that he was finally imprisoned, his lands confiscated by the Crown, and his castle at Duffield ordered to be destroyed. Thus, in about two hundred years from its erection, this mighty fortress was fired and laid low. Doubtless from the ruins stones were carted away to repair the church, the bridge, and other buildings.

The late Rev. Charles Kerry, a very sound Derbyshire archaeologist, says that the old half of the Derwent Bridge is of Henry III's time, and that much of the castle stone was used in its building.

Weeds and grass grew over the site, until not a stone was let uncovered, and a few centuries afterwards the place where the Castle had stood, or whether there ever was a castle at all, was a matter of conjecture, and nothing remained except the name "Castle Orchard". There was at one time, near the Vicarage, some quaint old thatched cottages, and one had a remarkable old oak door, which tradition said belonged to the bakehouse of the Castle. These, and dozens of other picturesque old thatched cottages, have all been removed within my memory.

When Castle Hill House was built, the foundations were found of a wall five feet thick, which may have been part of the outer defences of the castle. I need not say much about the accidental discovery of the site in 1885, or of the laying bare of the long-buried foundations of the keep, in which my father played a leading part. It was then traces were found that proved the successive occupations I have spoken of, and these discoveries created much interest among archaeologists and historians.

Stone Capital

Some relics of various dates are preserved in a case now kept in the Parish Room, such as fragments of Roman and Saxon pottery, a Norman spur, bridle bit and spear-head; also three knives of the Norman period. I give a photograph of an interesting piece of typical Norman masonry from the castle site, and one of the old buckets which used to supply water for the garrison in the keep, and was found at the bottom of the well, where it had lain for over six hundred years; of course, it had fallen in pieces, but as the staves were found, and all its iron work, it was an easy matter to put them together on a new lining. The well, which is four feet in diameter and eighty feet deep, after passing through a few feet of rock, was sunk through the shales, and is still perfectly firm and plumb, though without a lining of any kind.

Norman bucket
Webmaster's Note:
Many claims have been made that Tutbury was the de Ferrars home rather than Duffield. Tutbury, it appears, was more comfortable, but also less well defended. Over several generations it probably depended on the needs of the day. As Dr. Cox points out, Tutbury was on the verge of the de Ferrars' possessions, rather than the centre.
Later work(1) suggests that Henry de Ferrar's first castle, around 1080, might have been constructed of earth and timber. This was destroyed by the king in 1173, but on return of the de Ferrars to Royal favour, the stone keep was built around 1170, being extended in 1250, and finally destroyed in 1266.

1. Manby, T.G., Duffield Castle Excavations 1957., Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 79, 1959.

First published 1922, Derby, Harpur and Son. Website copyright 2001 Jed Bland. 16.04.01