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Horrobyn Histories – Paul’s Story

And last but not least it’s Paul’s contribution…

First a word about what I was looking for. Harrisons, Horabins with various spellings, and Mellors. Why? I was never quite clear. The Harrisons and Horabins were longtime tenants around Sheen, including Under Whitle, and a Mellor married a Horobin (spelt like that) in 1822, so I suppose that must be it. Anyway, there were more Mellors than anyone else, but enough Harrisons and Horabins, and a little glimpse into their lives as revealed through the Harpur rent

I also looked at some Harpur rent records for 1631- 1654 or so, but as far as I could make out from the handwriting (worse than mine) they related only to the area round Swarkeston, Ticknall and other villages south of Derby.

The two full rent rolls were in good clear handwriting, which, as I’ve never tried reading old manuscripts before, was a good thing. The first notable thing was that the Harrisons and Horabins (Horrobbin in 1807) were there throughout that hundred year period, but that this did not necessarily indicate bucolic tranquility. The rent in 1707 for each farm was thirty shillings a year (plus two capons at Lady Day from John Harrison), but in 1807 John Horrobbin was paying £30 a year, while Abraham Harrison was paying £27- they let him off the capons though. The 1725 Lady Day document, which strangely didn’t mention Horabins, has John Harrison down for £5 rent – it’s not clear whether this was the year’s rent or half of it.

There may be a clue in the rent arrears document- a William Harrison (not sure if he’s related to John of Sheen) had run up a debt of £9/3/2d for his five and a half acres over the previous 6 years. I wonder if this indicates Sir John Harpur squeezing his estates harder to pay for his expensive building work at Calke? And 1807 was in the midst of the inflation and financial turmoil of the Napoleonic wars.

Sometime between 1707 and 1807 there was a change in status for Harrisons, Horobins and Mellors alike. Farmers who had leaseholds in 1707 were to a man listed as tenants at will in 1807, not just in Sheen but in all the Harpur lands. Were the Harpurs simply refusing to renew leases when they expired, so as to be able to exploit their land more profitably? They were certainly encouraging enclosure and land improvement- the rents of the section of the 1807 roll labelled “New Improvements” are markedly lower than those for the old holdings.

William Mellor was paying only 2/6d a year for three acres of newly enclosed land at Hollinsclough.

Away from the Record Office and its formalities, rules and surprising old documents, it’s remarkable how much other people’s family research is available on the Web, and how much is relevant to our areas. A list of Acts of Parliament for enclosures in Staffordshire shows that Sheen never had, or probably needed, an Act, but that Longnor was given an Act in 1785, while Alstonfield, Lower Elkstone, Fawfieldhead, Heathylee, Hollinsclough, Quarnford, Stanshope, and Warslow had to wait till 1834 for theirs. The rather unpromisingly- named has a list of marriages at Derbyshire’s local Gretna Green, Peak Forest, which shows it to have been a favourite mating ground for Horabins in the mid18th century. Were they impulsive romantics or had they fallen out with the local vicar? William Horobin married Elizabeth Derbyshire there in 1748 – and his life at Whitle was recorded on a website dedicated to the Victorian novelist of the turf Nathaniel Gould. Don’t worry, I’d never heard of him either(

So that about wraps it up for our volunteer historians’ take on what they’ve being doing and finding out about. Watch this space for Dr Simon Harris’ interim report…


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