As is the case with so many other of Derbyshire’s lost houses, the present Middleton Hall, at Middleton-by-Youlgreave, is a replacement, on another site in this case, of an earlier house. Indeed, there had been a manor house in Middleton from a relatively early date, for there had been a domestic chapel there before the mid-twelfth century, remains of which were discovered by Thomas William Bateman in the grounds of the present hall (of which he was then owner) in 1870.
How this chapel came into being is cloaked in uncertainty. In 1066 man of Norse descent called Dunning appears to have held Middleton, along with Pilsley, one of the eight manors of Barton Blount, and one of the two manors of Holme, Wadshelf and Brampton. By 1086, when Domesday Book was compiled, he had lost the lot but had been compensated by being installed as King’s thegn in the manor of Calow, by Chesterfield, and thus became ancestor of the Calow family. In 1086, Youlgreave was part of the extensive holdings of Henry de Ferrers, who installed as sub-tenant a man called Col or Colle, another person of Norse ancestry, and his family held it from the King, along with Middleton, Stanton, and Harthill.
Robert son of Colle seems to have resided at Harthill, where he built a fine manor house with a chapel (which still stands, despite conversion, long ago, to agricultural use), and it would appear that Middleton was sub-tenanted by a family of that name, just as Stanton was sub-tenanted by the Stanton family. Indeed, we find Miles de Middleton there in 1230 and his grandson William was involved in a land transaction there in 1291.
These Middletons held under the descendants of Colle, later the de Harthills, and after them from the Cokaynes. From the latter the manorial estate went to the Howes of Langar in Nottinghamshire in the 17th century. After the Middletons died out, the Medieval house seems to have fallen into decay and been abandoned, chapel included: even Dr. Cox, author of Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire (1875-1879), seems to have missed it.
Meanwhile, Robert, third son of Hugh Bateman of Hartington Hall bought a house and some land in Youlgreave which included part of Middleton in 1615 and in 1626 he built a new house, Middleton Hall, in the village, which seemingly included fragments of an earlier residence. In 1670, his son paid tax on seven hearths there, suggesting that it was a reasonably substantial place. They also held some land at Hartington.
Robert’s house was clearly a simple E-plan or H-plan upland stone manor house, but as the only view we have of it was done shortly before demolition in 1812, our information is based on surmise. What the drawing actually shows is a typical late 18th century three bay two and a half storey farm house with a central entrance and an oeuil-de-boeuf attic window over the centrally positioned entrance with its Adam-influenced fan lit door, all enclosed by gritstone quoins, implying that the main building material was difficult-to-work carboniferous limestone from a local source. There are similar farmhouses, even down to the bull’s eye window, all over the White Peak, and especially on the former Bateman family’s Hartington Hall estate.
What we also see on the left, however, is a surviving early 17th century cross wing of two storeys and attics, with typical mullioned casemented windows under cranked hood moulds with a group of tall stacks to one side. From this we may be fairly sure that the Batemans decided to enlarge the house c. 1770 and did it by replacing two-thirds of the original building with a brand new large farmhouse, probably put up by the local builder using a pattern book, leaving a third of the old house as a service wing. This seems to have been the work of Richard Bateman (1727-1774). Furthermore, the family estate kept on expanding, fuelled by successful lead trading and a cloth business in Manchester, mainly run by Richard’s youngest son, William. The eldest son was Thomas (1760-1747), who managed to buy from Viscount Howe, all the manorial land at Middleton which had been acquired the previous century by the Howes.
In 1786, Thomas married Rebecca the daughter and co-heiress of Arthur Clegg, another Manchester cloth merchant, again increasing the family fortune. Their only son was William, who grew up to be a distinguished archaeologist and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He, however, died aged 47 in 1835, also leaving a son, Thomas, who caught the archaeology bug from his father, and became famous as the excavator (but without the methodical care expected today) of Bronze Age and later barrows all over Derbyshire, Staffordshire and southern Yorkshire, chronicled in two detailed books, now highly desirable.
Young Thomas, born in 1821, was thus much influenced by his father’s example, but also by that of his grandfather in architecture, into whose care following his father’s death, when he was 14, he was placed. Meanwhile, old Thomas, buoyed up by his increasing wealth, his acquisition of the rest of the land in Middleton, and a fire which left the hall unlivable, resolved to replace the old family home rather than repair it. He therefore retired temporarily to Meadow Pleck, another house on the estate, and in 1823 – the year he served his High Shrievalty – unceremoniously demolished the old house.
He was, however, already personally designing its successor, which was begun in 1824 and completed in 1826 on a new site, but quite near to the old house, off Rake Lane. It was two storey, flatted topped with a balustrade, very four square, with slim octagonal angle turrets and a projecting lancetted entrance in antis. It has a fine hall with an elegant Hoptonwood staircase with an iron balustrade. Much of the oak panelling from the old house, however, was transferred and survives within. The stables were a simpler version of the same.
This, however, was not Thomas Bateman’s first essay in architecture, for he had been busy improving the estate since his marriage and a number of eclectic buildings may be seen in and around Middleton, including Rock Cottage, also in Rake Lane, and numerous cottages in the village, which he tried to transform into a uniform estate village, including a drastic rebuild of the Bateman Arms inn. In his years in the cloth trade in Manchester, he had become a Congregationalist – probably also to spite his grandfather, whose influence he had come to resent – and in 1826 built a Congregational Chapel at Middleton, too, also to his own design.
Having estranged himself from his grandfather young Thomas had to find somewhere else to live. Luckily, despite their differences, he had inherited a talent for architecture from him and on a part of the estate settled on him by his father, he built to his own eccentric design Lomberdale Hall in 1845, to house him, his mistress, Mrs. Mason, and his father’s antiquarian collections. In time, however, by dint of frenzied excavations, he managed to more than double these collections and had to expand the house considerably in 1857. He also inherited his grandfather’s house in 1847.
However, just as a surfeit of archaeology had carried off his father, so it also carried Thomas off, quite suddenly in 1861. His son Thomas William, was forced to sell up in 1897 and most
of the collections went by purchase to Sheffield Museums. Fortunately, unlike the old family house in Middleton which the elder Thomas demolished, both the replacement house and Lomberdale survive and are still lived in.