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,

Duffield People


The Rev. William Barber, who was vicar before Mr. Moore, was a pluralist, and held the living of Duffield for 39 years, and was incumbent of Quarndon 56 years, and died aged 79. I am not sure if he was not Vicar of Holbrook at one time, too. At any rate, he was responsible for the services there for some period, and his curate, Mr. Ward, used to ride to and fro on horseback. Mr. Ward lived for some time in the old Rectory House, formerly occupied by the Pindar family, from whom Earl Beauchamp is descended, a large brick house that stood nearly opposite the church doors. It was pulled down, and the site used for an enlargement of the churchyard, consecrated in 1818 by Bishop Selwyn. I remember that when the vestry meeting was held to decide as to this enlargement, the Belper ratepayers got into their heads that they, living within the old parish, were to be rated for the extension of Duffield churchyard. Consequently, on the day of the meeting, a crowd of some hundreds of Belper men marched over in procession, headed by a brass band, determined to protest. The meeting was perforce adjourned from the vestry to the churchyard, and when the Vicar mounted a tomb and announced that it was decided to defray the cost of the enlargement by voluntary subscriptions, the Belper crowd, who had come prepared for a row, returned triumphantly home.

On the day of the consecration, the churchwarden of that time, anxious to receive the Bishop in suitable state, took his best carriage and pair to meet him at the railway station. But the rugged, one-time missionary to the Maories did not wait for any carriage and pair, and the churchwarden returned to find the Bishop, carrying his own bag, already in the churchyard. I was a small choir-boy then, but the Bishop's text, "Free among the dead" (Ps. lxxxviii. 5). still remains in my memory. Preachers are hereby reminded that there is much virtue in brevity, both in text and sermons.

Mr. Barber, towards the end of his life, lived in the house in Upper King Street; now called Ivy Lodge. The field in front of the house, through which a path runs, is still called Barber's Hillyfield, after the old vicar.

In those days, Duffield church was a very favourite place for weddings indeed, it almost had the celebrity of a local Gretna Green. The reason can easily be seen. The parish was very extensive, there was the natural desire of young people to be married in the church where their parents and grand-parents had been married; marriages are said to have been celebrated under rather free and easy conditions a hundred years ago, so the runaway couples who represented themselves as living in Duffield Parish were married without inquiry. Be this as it may, Duffield church remained popular as a place for weddings from the whole of the ancient and extensive parish until quite recently, especially at Easter and Whitsuntide, and I remember some of these great festivals at which the long succession of couples had not all been disposed of when the hour for morning service arrived.

The curate who last did duty for Mr. Barber was the Rev. J.P.O. Tomkins, much liked in the village; and he and my father started the first Temperance Society in Duffield, at a time when "teetotallers" were the reverse of popular; indeed, one can now scarcely realize bow strong was the opposition they met with in those days. At Whitsuntide it was always the custom for the Oddfellows Lodge to parade through the village in full regalia, headed by a marshal on horseback, a huge banner carried by two men, and a brass band. They marched to church for a special morning service, and then repaired to the White Hart for dinner, at which the vicar, the Rev. F.W. Moore, regularly presided.

I have said that fifty years ago we were a rural and unsophisticated people, and took our pleasures simply. I wish I could describe the amusing features of the frequent meetings, concerts, and entertainments of all sorts which have taken place in that old room on the Wirksworth Road. The room has had a chequered existence. It was at one time a Presbyterian meeting house; afterwards, the congregation turned Unitarian, and had a resident minister. Since then it has been a news-room, a coffee room, an infants' schoolroom (for many years), a YMCA institute and gymnasium) a CLB drill hall, and all the time a meeting place for all sorts of gatherings. Now it has become a women's institute, and, alternately, a cinema theatre. Perhaps it will next blossom out as a "palais de danse," which seems to be the latest craze.

To mention a few of the gatherings that remain in my memory. We, at one time, were even bold enough to give "Shakespearian representations," and I remember a performance of the "Merchant of Venice " - surely under conditions even more primitive than in Shakespeare's own days. For some years a chess club flourished here, one that held its own with most clubs in the Midlands. The great English chess champion, Mr. J.H.Blackburne (who has recently been feted on completing his eightieth year), once met the club in the Boys' Schoolroom, and played all comers "blindfold" (i.e., without sight of the boards). He won all his games, as was usual with him, but it was a big thing for a village club to entertain the greatest chess- master England has produced. Indeed, so enthusiastic were Duffield chess-players then that W. Norwood Potter, a London "master" professional player, who conducted a chess column in Land and Water, said in his paper, "At Duffield, chess goes raging rampant up and down the streets!" Our old friend, Mr. Richard Waite, showed hospitality to Mr. Blackburne on this visit. Perhaps one might think that he had some reason to repent it, for the chess-master was an inveterate smoker, and, besides the cigars he consumed during the four hours of the evening's play, he sat up until three o'clock in the morning smoking half-crown ones, and could not be induced to go to bed while a cigar remained.

I remember, too, a lecture on chemistry, given by a gentleman whose name, even after this lapse of years, I withhold. The lecture attracted a good number, and might have been a great success had not the lecturer, early in the proceedings, owing to some accident with his apparatus, caused a sudden and violent stampede of the whole of the audience by a most evil and penetrating smell, which I feel confident would have put the German army to flight! This brought the "lecture" to an abrupt end, for no one ventured to return. Another, who also shall be nameless, as I fear he may read this paper, announced a lecture in aid of the funds of the Duffield Cricket Club, entitled "The Air we Breathe" - but the expected audience evidently preferred to breathe the air outside; at any rate, they left a perfectly unvitiated supply for the few who, after some hunting-up, were induced to enter. I fear the "takings" did not even pay for printing the bills, and the Cricket Club had to look for some other source of income. However, the lecturer of that day has distinguished himself in so many directions since then that I am sure he will not resent being reminded of this early fiasco.

It may be a case of laudator temporis acti, but I cannot help thinking that the youth of fifty years ago was more enterprising than the youth of today. We found our own amusements, did everything for ourselves, and, at any rate, perhaps for those reasons, got a lot of fun out of things and enjoyed our youth, without the nightly attractions of theatre, picture-palace, dances, and all the rest.

But I was speaking of the early days of the Temperance Society here, and the meetings in that old room, when temperance orators of all sorts and conditions held forth ; and I think, on the whole, the less educated were the more popular, for often they had a rude eloquence, and spoke in a language "understanded of the people" - the "vulgar tongue," in fact.

Then the treats and excursions we enjoyed; for the Society was much encouraged by some people of position, who were generous in their support. I remember the great Exhibition in London, in 1862, to which a large party from Duffield was taken, free of expense, under the conductorship of my father. I sometimes wonder what people now would think of a party of scores of country folk of all ages following through the streets of London a leader holding aloft an umbrella with a white handkerchief tied to the top. In that way my father managed to keep his flock together, and guide them through the mazes of that great exhibition, and bring them all safely home again. No mean performance! Alas! one of the ladies had her pocket picked.

On another occasion, the men of the Temperance Society were treated to a week's holiday at Rhyl. We youngsters went too, and I remember that when we grew tired of the pleasures of the beach, we formed ourselves into a voluntary "vigilance committee" to see how often the Duffield teetotallers went into the Rhyl public-houses! Who would not "sign the pledge" if it meant a free trip to Rhyl! But although there were failures and backsliders, as there always are when human nature tries to reform, yet I am sure that some were reclaimed, and that mothers and children had reason to be grateful to those early workers in the cause of temperance.

The Temperance Society in its heyday boasted a brass band. The funds did not permit of any uniform, but the livery with vivid expanse of red waistcoat of Mr. Jeffcock's butler, who beat the big drum, was much admired, and was felt to make amends for the deficiencies in this respect of his less fortunate comrades.

This reminds me of a name that must be held in honoured remembrance in Duffield - that of Mr. Parkin Jeffcock, a mining engineer by profession, who lived here in the "sixties," and who was first and foremost in every good work. An earnest churchman, church-warden, Sunday school superintendent, and leader of a Bible class, and the vicar's right-hand man in all things. He started the Duffield Floral and Horticultural Society, which held its flower shows in the grounds of Duffield Hall, and he was the originator of the company that first brought gas to Duffield. The first evening gas was lighted in the village, we had illuminations to celebrate the occasion, and Mr. Jeffcock displayed an illuminated device over Tamworth House street door. (I told you we were a primitive people - I remember one good old lady in Tamworth Street who came out with a lighted candle to see the illuminations!) Mr. Jeffcock was appointed churchwarden in 1866, and entered upon the duties of the office with characteristic energy and zeal: but, alas! he was destined to serve for only a few short months, as in the same winter he was killed whilst voluntarily leading a rescue party, after an explosion in the Oaks Colliery, near Barnsley. Whilst he was down the pit, another explosion took place that destroyed all possibility of further rescue work - the rescuers were themselves entombed. As the bodies could not be recovered for several days - and, I think, weeks - we in Duffield waited and hoped against hope that Mr. Jeffcock might be found to have escaped with his life, but he died a martyr to duty, and Duffield lost a noble-hearted gentleman. The parishioners placed a tablet to his memory in the church, and also subscribed a considerable sum to the building of the Girls' School, in which he was interested, and an inscription on the School House records Mr. Jeffcock's efforts in the cause of education.

Of the work of my father, and the energetic way in which for nearly half-a-century he threw himself into the religious, philanthropic, social, and political life of the district, it is, perhaps, not for me to say much.

But I must pay a tribute to the memory of one who filled by far the largest part in my church life and work - the Rev. Francis Wellington Moore, vicar of Duffield, 1858 to 1898. All those long forty years he devoted to unceasing work, especially among the sick and poor of Duffield, to whom he was a faithful parish priest and friend - the father of the village. If my memory serves me correctly, there were years when Mr. Moore was not absent from Duffield for a day - certainly not for a single Sunday - and when holidays for him were unknown. Many here now will remember his piety of life, consistency of character, devotion to duty, and his wonderful tact and patience. Perhaps the latter quality made most impression on the memory of one who worked under Mr. Moore for more than thirty years - during most of the time as organist and choirmaster - and who realizes now that at times the zeal of the youthful organist may have outrun his discretion; but the kindness of heart and patience of the old vicar were equal to all demands, and as he was always generous with the stimulus of praise and appreciation, it was an unceasing pleasure and privilege to serve under him.

I have now come to the end of my somewhat rambling remarks. I have tried to give you some idea of Duffield village under various aspects, from the earliest times down to our own day. When the history of this Parish and Frith come to be written, with its wealth of old-world customs and traditions, it will be of the greatest interest. The quantity of material lying waiting for the historian is simply overwhelming. The late Dr. Cox and the Hon. Frederick Strutt long had the intention of bringing out such a history. They made a considerable collection of information, and much of that gathered by my father passed into their hands, but the task was never completed. I hope that some day a competent person, who has the knowledge, the leisure, and the means to undertake it, will compile a complete history of this ancient, extensive and historic Parish of Duffield.

Castle Hill, Duffield,
February, 1922.

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