The following account of Brampton Manor has been compiled from material made available by the Victoria County History for Derbyshire, which has been assembled for a planned future publication on the parish of Brampton. It is being presented in this form to assist Chesterfield Borough Council in determining a current planning application to convert Brampton Manor, which has for some years been occupied by a private members’ club, into six flats. The property includes, as well as the main house, a cruck-framed barn contemporary with the house and a later gazebo. The ‘Archaeological Assessment’ submitted with the planning application unfortunately says virtually nothing about the history of Brampton Manor.
The house on Old Road, known since the early nineteenth century as Brampton Manor and before that as New House, was built c.1600 by Godfrey Watkinson, a leading Chesterfield lead merchant. Either he or his son, also Godfrey, who was born in 1611 and died in 1668, was named as owner by William Senior on his plan of the manor of Chesterfield of 1633. The younger Godfrey’s son, a third Godfrey, in 1664 married Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert Wood of Monk Bretton in west Yorkshire. Godfrey and Elizabeth, as well as three daughters, had a son and heir, a fourth Godfrey (1668–1740), who married a woman named Mary Green, said to be of Cheshire; she died in 1711. Godfrey and Mary’s son and heir was yet another Godfrey, who died in 1757, aged 53. In 1736 he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert Scollar of Rowsley. Their son Godfrey died without issue in 1741 or 1742, leaving five sisters as coheirs. The Brampton estate passed to Ann, one of the five, who married as her second husband a surgeon named Stephen Melland of Youlgreave, with whom she had a son, William Melland.
In the 1820s and early 1830s William Melland was living at what was by then known as Brampton Manor House. He died there in 1839, aged 60, described as late a captain in the 68th Regiment of Foot. His daughter Eliza married Simeon Manlove, the Holymoorside cotton spinner, in 1842, and his widow, also Eliza, died in 1861. The Chesterfield solicitor, William Melland, who in 1842 advertised Brampton Manor for sale with between 6 and 20 acres of land, was presumably a relation.
The house appears to have been let or sold to the Revd Matson Vincent, the rector of St Thomas’s, Chatsworth Road, who died there in 1846. Mrs Tabitha Vincent was living at the Manor in 1857–62. There is a reference to cricket being played in the grounds in 1864.
In 1874 a scheme was announced for a Brampton Manor Freehold Land Society, which proposed to develop 9 acres belonging to the estate, with a frontage to Ashgate Road, in 64 plots ranging in size from 378 to 1,268 square yards. In March 1876 tenders were invited to build two new roads through this land for Squire Heaton, who was presumably promoting the development, and in September an auction was announced of 2½ acres of the Brampton Manor Freehold estate in plots of between 410 and 1,287 square yards. The land was bounded on the north-east by Ashgate Road and was served by the two new roads, Heaton Street and St Thomas’s Street, which would give purchasers access to Chatsworth Road. This implies that the land society had collapsed. In October the remaining lots were offered for sale by private treaty, suggesting that the auction had not been very successful, although from January 1877 advertisements appeared seeking either tenders to build houses on the estate or tenants for those that had been completed.
In the 1870s the Manor House itself was owned and occupied by Edward Nicholls, an official at the nearby Inkerman colliery, and in the 1930s there were local memories of flower shows in the grounds in that period. Between 1880 and 1884 Nicholls tried several times to sell the estate, comprising the house, grounds and 8½ acres of land, either by auction or private treaty, or to let it. The mansion was described as a desirable residential property and the land as suitable for building villas; the coal beneath the estate was then let to Knowles, Wright & Knowles for 21 years from 1878. It is possible that the house stood empty for some time but by 1897 it had been taken by James Pearson, the head of one of the largest pottery companies in Chesterfield, whose works stood on Whittington Moor. Pearson died at Brampton Manor in 1905. By 1907 the Chesterfield accountant and businessman, Samuel Edward Short, the founder of the firm of the same name whose offices are on Ashgate Road, and his family had moved into the house. From the start of the Shorts’ ownership, the grounds at the Manor were frequently opened for charitable events, social gatherings (especially during Short’s term as mayor in 1908–9), and fund-raising efforts for the Liberal party. Short was for many years the Libert agent for the Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire divisions.
S.E. Short died in 1914, aged only 45. Mrs Short continued to live at Brampton Manor, joined a few years after their marriage in 1920 by her daughter Alice Margaret (Marjorie) and her husband John Leam Middleton (and later their children). Jack Middleton DFC was the son of John Middleton, a former town clerk of Chesterfield. During and after the First World War Mrs Short hosted fund-raising events for local charities at the Manor, as she and her daughter did in the 1930s and during the Second World War. Beneficiaries included the VAD hospital at Ashgate, the Royal Hospital, and the Chesterfield Magdalene Home.
After the Shorts sold Brampton Manor, it was briefly owned by Plowright Brothers Ltd, the Brampton engineering company. They used the property as a guest-house and social club, and also built a new office block alongside. When Plowrights ceased trading in 1962 the estate changed hands again. From the mid 1960s it had what a later owner described as a ‘colourful spell as a gentleman’s dining and gaming club with the benefit of the only late licence in Chesterfield’. From 1970 the property became better known as a squash club, before declining in the 1990s and 2000s , when the business fell into receivership. Brampton Manor changed hands in 2005 and became a country club with facilities for weddings, private parties and spa days, as well as a sports club.
Brampton Manor has no connection with the manor of Brampton, whose chief house was Caus Hall Farm on the edge of Old Brampton village. Until at least 1740s it was simply known as ‘New House’, presumably because it was the first new house of any size to be built on the road leading out of Chesterfield towards the west, on which it would have been a prominent landmark. It stood completely on its own in 1633 and for a long time afterwards, until the modern suburb of New Brampton grew up around it. The present name seems to date from the early nineteenth century, when the Melland family may have felt that Brampton Manor sounded grander than New House (and in any case by then the house was about two hundred years old).
The house is shown on William Senior’s plan of 1633 with a main south front divided into three gabled bays. In this respect its appearance has changed little since it was built, although behind this façade the house has been modernised and in recent years a new kitchen and other service rooms added at the rear. The house is built of local sandstone, laid as coursed rubble, and is today rendered. It is of two storeys and an attic. The front elevation has nineteenth-century sash windows in stone frames, which are round-arched in the gables. The back is pebble-dashed with irregularly set stone mullioned windows. These probably date from the time of building, whereas the sash windows at the front reflect efforts to modernise the property. The house is roofed in stone flags.
The third Godfrey Watkinson was assessed on eight hearth at Brampton Manor in 1670. When he died in 1674 a very detailed inventory of the house, describing its contents room by room, was drawn up. The inventory listed the ‘hall’ (the main living room, which in recent years was the main bar of the club), several ‘parlours’ (one of which was probably what became the club restaurant and another the ‘copper bar’) and a range of kitchen and service rooms (which were probably on the site of the modern kitchen at the back of the house). There were ‘chambers’ over all the principal rooms. Godfrey had a well-stocked mixed farm and also left tools and a stock of lead at his smelting house at Holymoorside. In all, his personal estate was valued at £523, which probably made him one of the wealthiest residents of Brampton of his day.
In 1674 (and before and after) the corn recorded in the inventory would have been stored in the barn behind the house. This is an impressive cruck-framed structure (later encased in stone), one of several which survive at farms in Old Brampton, Barlow, Holmesfield, Dronfield and other parishes between Chesterfield and Sheffield. The one at Brampton Manor has been dated by dendrochronology (counting the number of rings in the timber) to c.1600, showing that it was built at the same time as the house. Cruck-framing survived as a type of construction for secondary buildings like barns for much longer north of the Trent than in the Midlands and south, and other examples in north-east Derbyshire also date from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries. The barn is not only a listed building (as is the main house) but also a scheduled monument, indicating that it is considered to be of national importance.
The other outbuilding which is listed (grade II*, putting it into the top 10 per cent of listed buildings nationally) is a gazebo, which appears to date from the early eighteenth century. It is built of coursed rubble sandstone with ashlar quoins and window surrounds, beneath a stone-flagged ‘fish-scale’ roof.
Brampton Manor has given its name to Old Hall Road, Manor Road, Manor Crescent and Manor Drive, and to Manor primary and secondary schools.