Thursday, 10 April 2008

Remains of a Celtic Cross in Matlock

William Potter was mid-Victorian Derbyshire's equivalent of a postcard publisher, postcards having been introduced in the dying years of the 19th Century and only popularised in the early 1900s. Based in Matlock Bath from the mid-1870s until his death in 1909, Potter was probably the most prolific Derbyshire-based producer of cartes de visite with scenic views of Derbyshire. Most of his work has the following simple design on the reverse, often (although not in this particular case) with a pencilled inscription relating to the subject of the photograph.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

However, he had initially started off in a completely different trade; census records and trade directories list him as an apprentice marble worker and a "manufacturer of spar, marble and malachite ornaments." The latter was clearly aimed at the burgeoning tourist trade, and it may have been the contact with visitors to the area that persuaded him to become a photographer in the late 1860s or early 1870s. The 1871 Census shows him working as a photographic printer - presumably as an employee - in Trentham, Staffordshire. He returned to Matlock soon after, and by 1881 was described as a "draper's traveller & photographer." I'm not aware of any portraits by Potter, and I believe it likely that he confined himself to landscapes. Nor does he appear to have produced any stereoviews, which also became very popular in the late 1800s.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Remains of Saxon cross and Gravestone in All Saints churchyard, Bakewell
Photographed by William Potter, probably in the mid-1870s

The example of Potter's work that I have decided to reproduce here, although still aimed at the tourist market, is more of an archaeological curiosity than a memento of the picturesque landscape. I picked it up on eBay recently, not knowing anything about the subject, but thought it would make a nice addition to the other images by William Potter in my online portfolio. The photo was obviously taken in a churchyard. The tall stone decorated with spiral patterns looked to me like the remains of a Celtic/Saxon cross, but my initial investigations picked up no sign of any such relic in Matlock churchyards. I then turned to the gravestone:

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Memory of
Mary Ann
Daughter of and Maria Leedham:
..ho died Jan: 30 1853 [or 1855?]
Aged 59 years.

A search of the 1851 Census, using's indexed images, quickly turned up the following household:

1851 Census: Matlock St, Bakewell DBY PRO Ref. HO107/2149/51/14/50:
Mary Ann LEEDHAM Head U F 54 Confectioner DBY Bakewell
Maria LEEDHAM Sis U F 52 Confectioner DBY Bakewell
Elizabeth ROBINSON Sis U F 45 DBY Bakewell
Sarah PLEASANT Serv U F 15 House Servant DBY Beeley
Leedham KIRK Cousin M 13 LAN Manchester
James KIRK Cousin M 11 LAN Manchester

Using Bakewell as the location, I very quickly found other mentions of the "cross", evidently of Saxon origins, including some great pictures by Pete Howard on Rosemary Lockie's Wishful Thinking Derbyshire Index, linked to from her meticulously maintained GENUKI pages for Bakewell.

© 2005 Pete Howard & courtesy of Rosemary Lockie's Wishful Thinking
Saxon Cross, All Saints, Bakewell
Photo © 2005 Pete Howard & courtesy of Rosemary Lockie's Wishful Thinking

Although there is some dispute about where the Saxon cross - one of several at the church - came from exactly, when it was relocated to the All Saints churchyard, there is a nice legend that accompanies it, and may have helped in selling William Potter's cdvs. The Peak Experience web site relates that the Saxon cross dates from the 8th Century A.D. and once stood at the crossroads one mile to the south of Hassop. In 1501 Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of King Henry VII was visiting Sir Henry Vernon at Haddon Hall:
Beneath the Saxon cross now in All Saints churchyard, he saw a woman in white who predicted an early marriage and early death for him. When the Prince returned to Haddon he heard that his Spanish bride-to-be was in England and he was to be married immediately. Four months later he became ill and breathed his dying words: ‘O, the vision of the cross at Haddon!’
Mary Ann Leedham was born in 1796, one of seven children of James Leedham (d. 1830) and Maria Bestall (d. 1840) of Bakewell. She and her two unmarried sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were confectioners in Bakewell in 1841. By 1851, Elizabeth had married, leaving Mary Ann and Maria to run the business. The GRO Death Index (presented online by FreeBMD) confirms that Mary Ann died in 1855. Stuart Hill very kindly confirmed (via the DerbysGen Mailing List) that she was buried at All Saints four days later, on 3 February 1855.

1 comment:

  1. On has to wonder if there is any possibility that this is Derby's property !! But I think we are quite content now with our Headless cross, see:

    ...and the link there to Maxwell Craven's article.


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