© Copyright Friends of Belper Parks, St Johns Chapel, The Butts, Belper, DE56 1HX, U.K. Site update 1st September 2008
Background aerial photograph courtesy of Amber Valley Borough Council
Themes - The Manor House and Forester’s Chapel -1
The location of the Belper Manor House is an intriguing local mystery because despite historic references very little is actually known about it, or where it was actually built.
In 1296 there is a reference to a "capital mansion" at Belper owned by Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster, as Lord of the Manor. He was the second son of King Henry III.
The "Great Larder", where venison was salted and stored for the winter is recorded as being located next to Belper Manor House. Buildings associated with such activities would often be built near to a stream in order to carry away the waste. The Great Larder was perhaps close to the Coppice Brook. A record of 1314 refers to the thatching of the roof of this building, roof shingles (wooden tiles), stone for the walls of a guarderobe (toilet) for the lodge, repairing the "Knight's Lodge" and providing three guarderobes for it, paling (fencing) the Lords garden and for the glazing of the chapel windows. This taken together gives the impression of a complex of buildings and a garden at this early stage. It also suggests that the Knight's lodge, whatever that was, was being substantially improved.
Belper Manor House may have been occupied by the Leche Family of Chatsworth in the early 15th Century, when Sir Roger Leche was the Forester of Duffield Frith and Lord High Treasurer of England. His daughter Isabella may have been married at St. John's Chapel in 1420.
Between 1439 and 1440 "Belper Lodge" was rebuilt as a six bay timber building on the original foundations. William Love, a carpenter, was paid £20 to "cut, scapple, square, saw and carry all the timber work of the hall of the manor house containing six bays and to frame and erect it on the stone walls of the same."
The Manor farm was built in the 18th Century and is said to have used stone taken from the ruined manor house. This was also suggested in another reference by the priest of St. John's Chapel writing in 1664, "The Manor House is not only empty, but actually being used as a quarry for farmers and cottagers and also a recovery store for fuel, soon there will be nothing left save a few foundation stones."