Breadsall was one of the villages immediately surrounding Derby that so far has escaped being absorbed by the ever-expanding city below it and to the south, although a considerable amount of land on the southern edge of the parish was absorbed in 1921 and is now host to the Breadsall Hill Top estate, created through the sale and destruction of two of several country houses and gentleman’s villas in the parish, Breadsall Hill Top and Breadsall Mount.
Indeed, Breadsall’s history was always chequered, the parish having been divided by its first feudal lords, the de Dunes, into two separate manorial estates. There were also two settlements: the present village, originally Breadsall Nether Hall, and another on the ridge to the SE called Breadsall Upper Hall. I became acquainted with the latter when, as Assistant Keeper of Archaeology at the Museum, I was invited in 1980 to the site by the late Maurice Brassington to see what was there, the City Council having then just decided to sell the entire area for housing.
What we found was a moated site, presumably the site of the de Dune family’s Upper Hall, and numerous sunken lanes and grassy house platforms: the place was a hitherto unrecorded deserted Medieval village (DMV). Had we discovered all this before, English Heritage (as it then was) could have been alerted and, even had they failed to stop Derby expanding onto the site, could at least have insisted on an archaeological investigation, although, in truth, the requirement for a developer to fund an excavation in the circumstances was then still a decade and a half off.
Down the hill, Breadsall Nether Hall is now Breadsall Old Hall, a much-rebuilt Medieval remnant in the middle of the village, once the property of the Harpurs and previously of the Curzons. To the north, once stood Breadsall Priory, which was replaced by the Cutler family’s new house around 1600. This Jacobean mansion, much rebuilt for Sir Alfred Haslam by Scrivener of Stoke and extended in the Edwardian period by Percy Currey, eventually became an hotel.
On the Hill Top, things were different. Just SE of the DMV once stood Breadsall Mount, on land owned by the Bateman family of Derby and Hartington Hall as part of the large estate centered on Morley which they had inherited from the Sacheverels. They had numerous interests in Derby, and in 1731 built 36, St. Mary’s Gate as their town house – until they inherited the much grander St. Mary’s Gate House a generation later. One, Sir Hugh Bateman MP, was raised to a baronetcy in 1806, but failed to leave any sons, the title going via a daughter (a most unusual arrangement for a baronet) to the Scotts of Great Barr and eventually to the Hoods.
Yet by the Regency period the centre of Derby was getting polluted and noisy. The elite were minded to move into the suburbs, and in this series we have looked at several of the opulent villas built by the Bateman’s contemporaries. Their own first suburban house was Litchurch Villa, of c. 1828, now the Rolls-Rovce club on Osmaston Road. Yet a generation down the line again it turned out to be too close the foundries of Litchurch, the smoke, smells and racket of which made the place difficult to live in.
Therefore, Sir Hugh’s nephew, Thomas Osborne Bateman (fifth son of the Baronet’s brother Richard) decided in 1863 to move yet again, this time choosing the high ground to the north of the town, clear of what the prevailing wind might bring from the foundries. Here he decided to build a new house entirely, and spare no expense whilst doing so. The site was on land once part of Breadsall Upper Hall but it was on the family’s ancient Morley estate, which supported the house, for Morley Hall was demolished by the 1750s and a successor house rented out.
Called Breadsall Mount, the house was begun in 1863, the architect being Henry Isaac Stevens of Friar Gate (1806-1873), then in partnership with Lancashire gentleman-architect Frederick Josias Robinson. Stevens was Derbyshire’s best known, most prolific and accomplished Victorian architect, if not perhaps the most imaginative. Second son of Isaac Nehemiah Stevens of Pimlico (later of Ockbrook), Steward to the Earl of Chesterfield, his mother was Londoner Elizabeth Young. Henry (as he was originally baptised on 15 November 1806 at St. George’s, Hanover Square) was trained under William Martin, Lord Chesterfield’s agent and architect at Bretby and the family seem to have had close connections with Lord Chesterfield’s household in London as well as in Derbyshire. He also studied in the office of Sir Jeffrey Wyatville whilst the latter was working at Windsor Castle. Sir Jeffrey had designed Bretby Castle with Martin, and Stevens married Martin’s daughter Anne in 1832, settling and beginning work at Hartshorne, also on the Chesterfield estate. They had four children of whom only the youngest outlived her parents. Through his wife, he was also uncle to another prolific Derby architect, George Henry Sheffield, whom he trained.
Stevens was Churchwarden of All Saints’ 1842-3, but by 1852 (when he was elected FRIBA) the family was living at Mackworth. At just about the time he was completing Breadsall Mount (and perhaps thanks to the fee!) he built himself The Hollies, 20 Pear Tree Road, Pear Tree, a new Derby suburb. He served as a Conservative Councillor 1862-64 and 1866-69, and his will is dated 18th November 1872. He died at home 30th April 1873.
The house Stevens built was fairly standard fare for him. It was ‘Jacobethan’ that is, a combination of classic Elizabethan and Jacobean features, then very popular with the elite. The entrance was on the three gabled west front, and was through a Gothic doorcase above which was carved, by Derby sculptor Joseph Barlow Robinson, the Bateman arms, quartering Sacheverell and Osborne. The gables were straight and coped, the house of two lofty storeys and attics and built of fine ashlar, squared from millstone grit quarried from Coxbench quarry nearby.
The south front had canted end bays with a stepped gable between and the east front had two gables flanking a dormer, with a four-bay service wing ending in yet another gable and an arched loggia. The windows were mainly four light mullioned and transomed ones, and there were paired string courses above them. The whole was rounded off with impressive chimneys, reflecting the carved Gothic chimneypieces in the main rooms below. The staircase was also of stone with a gothic balustrade, and the rooms were plentifully panelled in oak.
The small park, set on ground falling to the south is now St. Andrew’s view, although that short-lived ‘railway church’ was not then built. And that part of the estate to the east not in Morley parish was where Hill Top stood and is now covered in municipal housing.
The house passed on Bateman’s death to his son, Frederick Osborne Bateman, although by 1895 Mrs. Radcliffe was living there, followed by the time the first world war broke out by mining engineer and local magistrate, Joseph Hill. He moved out in 1927, when Frederick Bateman’s son Osborne Sacheverel Bateman sold the house and about four acres to the newly formed Diocese of Derby to enable it to be converted as the palace of the diocese’s first Bishop the Rt. Revd. Edward Courtenay Pearce.
Not to be out-done by Thomas Bateman, Bishop Pearce had his own coat of arms, correctly impaled with those of the diocese, carved above the entrance, moving their predecessor to the garden front. These arms had been granted to his elder brother Ernest, in 1919 when he had been made Bishop of Worcester with remainder to the male descendants of their father. The joky motto was ‘Je Perce’ literally ‘I drill’ (or discipline!)
He and his immediate successors lived at Breadsall Mount, within sight and sound of their Cathedral, until Bishop Allen decided it was ‘too pretentious’ and removed to a Regency house in Turnditch (since sold by Bishop Bowles for similar, equally misconceived reasons) in favour of a smaller house still, a twentieth century affair on Duffield Broadway. The reduction in size of Bishop’s residences, and those of the clergy is always a mistake, as these large old houses, although expensive of upkeep, were much loved by their diocesan flocks and parishioners and were equipped with plenty of space for parish or diocesan events. They are universally missed.
Thus in 1968, the house was left awaiting a new owner, rapidly succumbing to vandalism. After a year or so it was acquired by Derby Corporation, who wanted the site and its four acres to extend the Hill Top estate northwards, the borough boundary having conveniently been extended the same year the Bishop moved. Consequently, it was demolished in June 1970 and the site used to build a school of outstanding architectural banality.