As you proceed out of Matlock going north you will pass on your right the end of Dimple Road, which rises vertiginously up the steepish hillside. Some way up you might just miss Allen Hill a narrow road leading down into a mass of 1960s housing and rising out on the other side as little more than a footpath ending in Woolley Road. From Woolley Road, you will also encounter Edge Road which, although on the hillside, has nothing to do with topography but everything to do with the former ownership of the land. Malpas Road also opens off Woolley Road.
All these have resonance with a very modest, very old, minor country house which once graced this hillside, Allen Hill. The house itself – at least in its latter three centuries – was of L-plan, built of rough ashlar blocks of Ashover Grit from a local quarry and edged with long-and-short blocky quoins. The cross wing was to the left of the entrance and had a four light mullioned window lighting the floor above a five light one, both set beneath cranked hood moulds. Between the two was inset a stone plaque under another very short hood moulding which read
AW | GC
1624 | V
The cross-wing gable was irregular, for the fenestration was by no means central, suggesting a rebuild of an earlier house. The porch was a charming confection of two storeys which projected beyond the cross-wing and like it was topped by stone coping with a ball finial at the apex. A two-light mullioned window under a hood mould lit the tiny room above the entrance, which was a nineteenth century replacement, in smooth ashlar of Stancliffe stone, quite rectangular but with a discreet moulding, but over which was inscribed, probably secondarily rather than transplanted:
16 AOM 74
To the right of the entrance was a four light ground floor mullioned window with a three light one above, neither graced with a hood mould, a pattern repeated on the next bay to the east and the range – unusually long for a Derbyshire small manor house – ended with a superimposed pair of two light mullioned windows. At this end, the walling was closer to random rubble, but it turned the angle with another stone coped and finialled gable. The roof was slated.
This front faced southwards, down the slope towards the river, but the west side was blind and interrupted only by a very substantial projecting chimney breast supporting a pair of diamond section stone stacks, the chimney breast probably well pre-dating 1624. The north side seems to have escaped visual record but, with the ground rising steeply and a north aspect, it probably had few windows but a door to the farmyard and stables. There were six hearths taxable in 1670, and ten rooms in the domestic part of the house according to the census of 1911.
The stable block appears to have been approximately contemporary with the house at one end and bore yet another inscription, 1653, over the door. Further long, the range had been extended, presumably in the eighteenth century, probably as a carriage shed, and a final stone was inscribed:
The estate was reportedly modest, about 800 acres, and the land, which seems to have taken its name from an unrecorded family called Alleyne (to give the earliest recorded spelling, which was how most Allens were spelt prior to the Early Modern period) was originally part of the once extensive estate of the Wendesley family of Wendesley, who, we must presume, inherited it from a branch of the White Peak Alleynes, who had given it their name. The hill itself, called The Dimple had lead mines within it, and at the foot a small spa was later opened on the family’s land. The well head survives, listed grade II and was restored by Adam Wolley in 1821.
In Queen Elizabeth’s reign, we find a Richard Wendesley, presumably of a junior branch of the family, selling the estate to one Anthony Wolley (as it was then spelt) of Riber Manor. Although the surviving pedigrees do not show it, it seems likely that Anthony had married Richard Wendesley’s sister, for his coat-of-arms in the heralds’ visitation shows his arms impaled (placed alongside on the same shield) with those of the junior Wendesleys: ermine on a bend engrailed gules three escallops. Thus, the Wolleys of Riber acquired Allen Hill.
TheWo[o]lleys had originally come from Wolley in Hollingworth, Cheshire, in the later 13th century. Their arms bear a chevron vairé or and gules, the colouring of the arms of their feudal overlords, the de Ferrers Earls of Derby, who probably granted them at some date prior to their disgrace and attainder in 1268. William, son of Ralph, settled at Broadbottom Hall in Longendale, but in 1460 his descendant in the fourth generation, acquired by marriage with the heiress of John Robotham of Riber a small estate there and, enlarging his holding by purchase, established a house on the site of the present manor house.
Anthony Wolley died in 1576 leaving three sons: Adam who inherited Riber, and whose descendants built the present hall, Thomas who settled at Bonsall, and John who was given Allen Hill. John probably built the original house, and his efforts were no doubt the east end of the building where the stone blocks were much rougher and unevenly brought to course, and the west wall of the cross-wing. However, if we may trust the date stones, the house that survived to be photographed was rebuilt by Anthony Wolley (1594-1655). He had married in 1615 and probably began to rebuild gradually, the date probably marking the completion of the works. What the ‘GC’ and the hieroglyph beneath meant is quite unclear: neither his wife nor anyone in the family bear these initials; they may have been re-cut from an unreadable original.
The next date, re-cut over the door, is 1674. The A and M stand for Adam Wolley (1648-1710) and his first wife Millicent, daughter of Wirksworth lead entrepreneur Henry Wigley The original stone may have been damaged, for it would have originally read, as convention demanded
A * M
Probably, again, it had suffered weathering. Finally, a descendant, John Wolley (1719-1794) seems to have extended the stable block.
The last of the family was Adam Wolley FSA (1758-1827) the antiquary, whose collection of manuscripts and gleanings forms an important element of Derbyshire material in the British Library. His memorial; tablet in St. Giles, Matlock, has the torches on knowledge inverted on either side of the inscription, the Roman indication of death. His daughter and heiress carried house and estate to Revd. John Hurt, a younger son of the Hurts of Alderwasley, who took the surname and arms in lieu of his own by Royal Licence in 1867. His son, Charles, also a parson, married Frances Lucy Parker, the heiress of the last of the Dod family of Edge Hall, in Cheshire, and took the name and combined arms of Wolley-Dod.
Edge Hall was a far grander affair than poor little Allen Hill which, in any case, had been let as a farm after the death of the antiquary’s father in 1807. Anthony Holmes was the first tenant, followed for many years by the Stevens family. After them came Matlock butcher Edward Slack and he was followed by the last tenants, the Taylors, Frederick retiring in 1931, after which the house lay empty.
The Wolley-Dods, sold the land apparently to enable the building of a new hydro, and the house was demolished by the seemingly rather drastic method of blasting with dynamite in 1934, all that survived being some ancient walls, a barn converted into a garage and at least one date-stone, built into walling nearby. The hydro, if built, seems not to have prospered (probably killed off finally by World War Two) and it was eventually cleared and modern housing built in the site.
The Wolleys were famously long-lived, as a couple of their monuments in the parish church testify. Adam Wolley and his wife Grace were married for 76 years and survived the Civil War and lived, respectively to 99 and 110! There are other monuments to the family in the church including a splendid funeral hatchment above the chancel arch.
The streets, of course, are named after the house, the family, Edge Hall and Malpas, where Edge Hall still stands!