CHAPTER 3 – Churches and Religion


In order to understand our ancestors, we need to know a little about the Religions and the Churches in the area. The GEE family interacted with the church more than the ANDREW family possibly because the Andrew family were poorer than the Gee family.

Occasionally families avoided the church for different reasons; maybe a secular conviction or a wish to avoid paying money. Non Conformists had to marry according to the rights of the established church (The Church of England) from 1754. The Marriage Act came into force on 25th March 1754 with the requirement that the marriage be celebrated by an Anglican Clergyman within the “Mother Church.” In the Peak Forest – Hope Valley – Hayfield area – the Mother Church was the ALL SAINTS CHURCH in Glossop. (Jews and Quakers were exempt from this law.) But they did not however, have to baptize their children.

The Church of England (Anglicans) lead by a British Monarch was an Episcopal model, very similar to the Roman Catholic model. In the 1500’s and 1600’s it gradually accepted many protestant views, but it did not become “Calvinist” enough to satisfy the Puritans, the Methodists, Baptist, Unitarian, Separatist or other Independent Congregations.

Thus was born the Non Conformist movements in the area (in all of England) in the 16th and 17th centuries. Our ancient ancestors, particularly the GEES were very much a part of this Non Conformist movement as is noticeable in a lot of the recorded history that we have about them.

Even though the GEES wanted their right to freedom of worship, so they were still mired in the practice of buying their church pews, paying exorbitant amounts of money yearly to the church coffers, and if not actually being buried inside the church, then buried outside the church in the yard, as close to the pulpit as was possible.

The Unitarian movement, although different from that of most denominations in that it had no one set leader, was beginning to take a foot hold in the Peak District. Not to believe in the trinity was an offence which carried the death penalty in the 16th and 17th centuries. Unitarians do not believe in it.

Around the same time, George Fox founded the Quakers, whom many later set sail for America and became Pilgrims. It needs to be noted here that there are some GEES who in later years inserted “Fox” in their children’s name.

Methodism began to arise with John Wesley. This “sect” came to be known as the “Wesleyan Methodists” to whom Aunt Hetty makes reference to on page 2 of her narrative. He made three visits to the Peak District in the span of about ten years. In 1748, John Wesley proposed to Grace Murray of the Peak District, who had nursed him back to health during an illness. Charles Wesley, John’s brother objected to the marriage, some say and so Grace married John’s disciple, John Bennett.

John Bennett was a powerful Methodist preacher whom Wesley converted to Methodism who lived here and was for many years one of Wesley‘s most enthusiastic preachers until after his marriage to Grace Murray, when the relations of the two men became strained. It is said that John Wesley never mentioned Grace’s name again.

William Bagshawe, known as “the Apostle of the Peak”, the founding father of the Presbyterian movement in Chapel-en-le-Frith, was forced to resign his ministry in 1662 for refusing to accept the Book of Common Prayer. Despite this, Bagshawe continued to hold secret Non conformist services at his house, Ford Hall, for many years.

The Chinley Independent Chapel was founded by Reverend William Bagshawe in 1662. This chapel was founded on the scriptural right of every separate church to maintain perfect independence in the government and administration of its own particular affairs. Early worship took place in a converted barn at Malcoffe, but some time later, in the early years of the 18th century, work was started on the building of a new chapel. This was completed in 1711, at a cost of £126, in spite of the opposition of local high church men, who sought to knock down the walls as they were built.


The story of Chinley Chapel, its Congregation and Pastors is so closely bound up with that of our Parish that it naturally calls for a place in our history.

The formation of the original body of Nonconformists from whom the present congregation is spiritually descended and the erection of the Chapel and much subsequent support is due to the family of Bagshawe of Ford Hall.

On 16th January 1627—8 there was born at Litton near Tideswell William the eldest son of Mr. William Bagshawe1 of Hucklow Hall, Abney and Litton by Jane, daughter of Ralph Oldfield of Litton. This son was baptized by the Vicar of Tideswell. After early education at various schools he went to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he took the B.A. degree in 1646. After leaving Cambridge we are told he had an earnest desire to become a preacher of the Gospel and “opposed successfully the views of his Family, who sought to divert his mind to some other pursuit”. For a time he assisted in ministerial work at Wormhill and Sheffield and finally on New Year’s Day 1650-1651 he was ordained at Chesterfield “by the laying on of hands of the Presbytery” Immanuel Bourne Rector of Ashover being the Moderator.
1 Until towards the end of the eighteenth century this family usually omitted the final ‘e’. I have adhered to the modern spelling throughout.

This was of course under the Cromwellian regime. Shortly afterwards he became Vicar of Glossop. Early in 1650 the Parliamentary Commissioners had reported that then there was “no minister for the present” at Glossop so he does not appear to have actually supplanted an extruded Vicar. He remained for some ten and a half years at Glossop where he was much loved by the people. When the Act of Uniformity of 1662 came into force, which required all incumbents of benefices to conform to the Book of Common Prayer and Services of the Church of England it is said that over two thousand Ministers who had during the Commonwealth Period obtruded themselves into benefices formerly occupied by the clergy of the Church, resigned or were ejected. Mr. Bagshawe refused to conform and being an honest man resigned and retired to Ford Hall which had been acquired by his father some time previously, and here he remained until his death some forty years later; he having succeeded his father in the estates in 1669.

Although Mr. Bagshawe ceased to be an official minister he still continued to preach and organize congregations of those whose theological views accorded with his own. At that day, unfortunately, religious intolerance, to some extent fostered by political considerations probably more imaginary than real, was rife and nonconformists, whether protestant or papist, had to walk very circumspectly.

Accordingly Mr. Bagshawe and his family attended the services at Chapel Church every Sunday morning and afternoon. “At night he preached the truths of the Gospel privately in his own house and elsewhere, delivering another address to a few persons every Thursday. He also assisted frequently at conferences and secret gatherings for prayer.” The late Mr. Greaves Bagshawe once told me that in his youth there was, in a field on the Bank Hall Estate, an old tree surrounded by a stone wall under which “the Apostle” used to preach but some time about 1860 all traces of this tree had disappeared. It was in a field, now part of “Owlgreave” Farm lying between the Railway and Bank Hall Drive which is shown on the Estate Map as “Gospel Brow”.

From various sources of information it is clear that in the middle and latter part of the seventeenth century Puritanism, and particularly the Presbyterianism followed by Mr. Bagshawe was exceedingly strong in Derbyshire. A careful computation suggests that quite 40 per cent of the yeomen of Chapel and Chinley were supporters of Mr. Bagshawe and later of Chinley Chapel, as not a few of their descendants are to this day. Amongst these we find several families of the Kirkes particularly those of Spire Hollins and Martinside, GEE of Lydgate, Moult of The Naze in Chinley, Lingard of Hull, Carrington of Ashen Clough, Bennetts of Hayfield, Chinley and Whitehough and Bradbury of Coldwell Clough. Presbyterian congregations were formed at Malcoff Hucklow, Bradwell, Ashford, Charlesworth and several other places and Mr. Bagshawe’s “labors were attended with such signal success that a spirit of seriousness and devotion such as is believed had not before been witnessed, pervaded the wild regions insomuch that he was called among his contemporaries ‘The Apostle Of the Peak’.”

The Declaration of Liberty of Conscience Act 1672 brought for a time some respite to the Apostle and his flock and he commenced to give a monthly lecture on a week day and a service once a month on a Sunday to his former congregation at Glossop. “There the people flocked to his sermons as doves to a window and Mr. Sandiforth his successor was often one of his hearers.” Under this Act amongst the fifty-four Presbyterian Meeting-houses licensed in Derbyshire was one at Chapel-en-le-Frith. This Statute was subsequently revoked and until the Revolution of 1688 he had to walk warily” prudently changing the locality” of the meetings “almost every Lord’s Day”.

However, after the accession of William and Mary a better state prevailed and at the Translation (July) Quarter Sessions 1689 at Derby eighteen, “Protestant Dissenting Ministers” took the oaths and were licensed in accordance with the then new, “Toleration Act”. Sixteen of their number, one of whom was Mr. Bagshawe, were Presbyterians. At the same Sessions the dwelling-house of John Lingard in Chinley was registered as a dissenting place of Worship but the building at Malcoff is not mentioned. It may have been covered by the license under the Act of 1672.

Mr. Bagshawe’s sister had married Mr. William Barber of Malcoff and, now that the Congregation were able to meet openly, that gentleman allowed them to meet in a large building on his estate and there they happily remained until the events occurred which led to the erection of Chinley Chapel. As his health failed the Apostle more and more confined himself to this meeting-house and in his last winter to his own house. “Yet he desisted not wholly from his public ministrations more than one Lord’s Day before his decease.” His last sermon was at Ford Hall on 22nd March 1701/2, on the occasion of the death of William III, from Romans VIII. and he died on the 1st April following. The old oak pulpit used by the Apostle at Malcoff was for many years preserved at Ford until it was presented to Chinley Chapel on 17th January 1931 by Mr. F.E.G. Bagshawe of Ford Hall and it is now fulfilling its original purpose.1

1 The foregoing is derived chiefly from Mr. W. H. Greaves-Bagshawe’s very full accounts of the Apostle in the Baghsawes of Ford, who in turn quotes from biographies written by the reverend John Ashe, Dr. Clegg and the Reverend John Hunter F.S.A. The story is now continued mainly from the MS. Autobiography and the diary of Dr. Clegg. Most of the quotations in the following section are from this diary.

The congregation at Malcoff was by now strong enough to need a resident pastor and in the July following the Apostle’s death a young Lancashire man about twenty-three years of age, James Clegg, “was called to preach an approbation sermon and in the following month he settled there after a very unanimous call the people gave me”. For some time all went uneventfully at Malcoff; Mr. Samuel Bagshaw the son of the Apostle had been succeeded by his son William and Mr. William Barber by his nephew John Barber. The latter, however, had married “a wanton high-flown widow of Salford” in 1710 and as Dr. Clegg complains, at this lady’s instigation “the doors of our meeting place were locked upon us the Lord’s Day night as soon as the public worship was over without giving us the least notice before; this brought us into a strait we had no place near suitable for the purpose but Mr. Bagshawe of Ford allowed us the use of his house for a time.”

Personal application to Mr. Barber was unavailing, the lady had her own way, “our friends then consulted together, determined that each one that had a seat in the place should commence a separate action at law for their seats which were made at yr own charge and which Mr. Barber had seized on. This brought him to submit to let us have the use of it till the year was out.” Any legal proceedings were, however, considered unfitting for members of their body so they began seriously to consider the erection of a place of worship of their own. With the commendable zeal which has always been so characteristic of this Society they at once set to work. Many members of the congregation were prepared to contribute considerably in work and materials, Mr. Bagshawe and others subscribed £5 each and with the help of friends in London and elsewhere £115 10s. was raised in cash. The total money cost of the finished building was £126 5s. 0½d, not an inconsiderable sum at that day. When it came to the question of where to build trouble began. Those who have served on committees – and in these days who has not – will sympathize with the Minister’s pathetic remark that he found it very difficult to avoid offending someone or other. “There were many meetings” much time spent and many warm debates before it could be agreed where to build, all stood pretty stiff for their own convenience “but at length all were, or seemed to be well satisfied!”

In 1711 a plot of land was purchased for £10 from John Hadfield of Chapel Milton in the names of Mr. Bagshawe of Ford, James Carrington of Chinley Houses and Robert Middleton. It was “in the south west corner of a field on which part of the old smithy was formerly built and having the lane leading to the Milne Marsh on the one side and the lane leading from Milnetowne to Hayfield on the other side”. The lane leading to the Marsh was known as Callaway Lane or Ward Lane. The Milne Marsh was a stretch of waste or common land on the north side of the Hockholme Brook extending roughly from the railway main line to the Wash and backwards to the site of the present Breck Farm. It seems to have been enjoyed as an open space for Dr. Clegg records on November 15th, 1740, “many came to hear David Taylor who at noon preached on the Common near Gorsty Low to a great multitude” and he also mentions in September 1742 a race being held at Wash.

On 3rd July 1712 the land was conveyed to eleven trustees namely Mr. William Bagshawe of Ford, The Reverend James Clegg, Minister, Arnold Kirk of Martinside, Robert Middleton, Mercer, John Bennett of Whitehough Head, RALPH GEE of Lydgate, William Carrington of White Knowle, John Carrington of Bugsworth, William Carrington of Ashen Clough, Thomas Moult of Chinley and John Lingard of Hull. This number of trustees is still maintained on each appointment of new Trustees. On this plot of land was erected a place of worship. The building of the Chapel seems to have been somewhat annoying to some people and there is a story that Mr. Bradbury of Coldwell Clough—a member of a family down to the present day staunch supporters of the Chapel—patrolled the precincts with a shot gun to keep off marauders.

Derbyshire memories are long—two and a quarter centuries ago this was the New Chapel in succession to the chapel at Malcoff and to-day it is still spoken of by the descendants of the founders and by many of the old families in the neighborhood as “The New Chapel”. The smithy was removed a few hundred yards to the west. It has long since disappeared but its site is still commemorated by the hamlet of New Smithy. The new building—one of the earliest Nonconformist chapels in the country—was made capacious enough to hold a much larger congregation than we had at Malcoff. At first multitudes flocked to it and I hope some good was done. “An appeal issued in connection with the restoration of the Chapel in 1908 refers to a MS. of about 1712 which states the Chapel was” Reared upon St. James Day and therefore called St. James Chappell”. There is also an oral tradition that the Chapel was dedicated to St. Luke. The giving of a title to the Chapel must have been unique at that day and no suggestion of any formal dedication has been made. The tradition of a dedication to St. James or St. Luke may have been in compliment or reference, to Dr. James Clegg or his medical attainments.

Things went on pretty quietly until 1750. By this time as we shall see in the next chapter—Dr. Clegg who had many years previously gone to live at Stodhart was not likely to continue much longer as Minister and as it appeared to Mr. William Bagshawe, the grandson of the Apostle, that a proper residence should be provided for the Minister, he was desirous of building a house for the purpose. At a meeting of the Trustees Mr. Bagshawe laid down certain conditions to which some of the Trustees demurred and thereupon Mr. Bagshawe withdrew his offer and for the time being nothing was done. However, he left a legacy to the Chapel as did his successor Colonel Samuel Bagshawe, M.P. and finally in 1794 the present Manse was erected at a cost of £300. The Chapel was in part rebuilt or restored in 1809 and again in 1908 care being taken on both occasions to preserve the original work both internally and externally.

The body of Congregationalists or Independents worshipping at Chinley Chapel are thus the representatives, as in many instances the lineal descendants, of the original body founded by the Apostle of the Peak and can fairly claim to be one of the oldest Nonconformist bodies in the country. Their rise and fortunes have been briefly dealt with as the story is so nearly allied to that of our own parish, but, of course, a much more comprehensive history could be given and it is to be hoped that someday this may be done by someone connected with the Chapel.

It may be useful to those interested in Malcoff and Chinley Chapel to record a Memorandum in the handwriting of the Reverend Ebenezer Glossop, Minister in the first half of the nineteenth century “Memorandum copied from the Register of Chinley Chapel in the handwriting of the Reverend Dr. Clegg: ‘No Register was kept while the congregation continued at Malcoff and for many years after, since it was removed to Chinley-Chappell, no account was taken of births and burials, but as many as can be recovered with certainty are now inserted in the proper places. “The Register began to be regularly kept 26th October 1729.”

The above extraction is taken from the local history book titled:
Its’ People & Its History. 1940.
Author William Braylesford Bunting

The church of St. Lawrence, formerly known as St. Helen, stands nearly in the center of the village Of Eyam. Heroism in the midst of horror. The plague broke out in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire in 1666, brought in a shipment of old clothes to a tailor in Eyam sent from London. The villagers, led by their courageous clergyman, realized that the only way to stop the spread of the plague to surrounding villages was to voluntarily quarantine the village, refusing to leave until the plague had run its course. This they did, though the cost was 259 dead out of a total of 292 inhabitants. Each year this heroic event is commemorated by the Plague Sunday Service in Eyam.

NOTE: I have found no historical records that indicate either a GEE or an ANDREW died in this disaster.


One response to “CHAPTER 3 – Churches and Religion


    very interesting. I am related to a Middleton family of chapel en le Frith and my grandfather lived in the old Quaker meeting house Brookcliffe in the wash in the 1920’s

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