The Trough of Truth

Public footpath

The monument includes the remains of the defended manorial complex at Stainsby. The site is situated on the crest of a hill 12.8km south east of Chesterfield and consists of the below ground remains of a manor house and chapel, the surviving earthworks of the defensive ditch and rampart, the outer circuit bank and fishpond. A hollow way is also evident as an earthwork to the south west of the manor house leading to the chapel. The medieval manor house is thought to have stood on the brow of the hill and underlies the Victorian school building (now the Baden-Powell scout centre) and adjacent School House which occupy the hill top today. A 19th century water colour shows the school house (then known as the Manor House) to be `L’ shaped in plan with mullioned windows. During the laying of new water pipes to the west of the School House stone footings of the western wing were revealed. This evidence appears to indicate that the present school house incorporates fabric of a much earlier building and that this building was originally much larger. It is interpreted as a fragment of the earlier house.

A cruck frame is incorporated towards the south end of the School House.  The most visible archaeological features are the earthworks which enclose the northern end of the manorial complex. There are three circuits or part circuits of enclosing earthworks. The innermost surrounds an area about 130m by 120m on the summit of the hill and defines the northern side of the medieval manor itself. The largest earthworks are the defensive ditch, rampart and fishpond which form a segmented arc approximately 150m long on the northern flank of the hill. The material dug out from the ditch has been banked up along the down slope to form an outer bank and to aid water retention. The ditch was probably fed by a spring and lined with clay to make it more impermeable. A natural spring is evident to the north west of the school, about 5m south of the defensive ditch, which at this point remains waterlogged. The outer bank runs in an almost continuous line broken by a causeway approximately half way along its surviving length.

Public footpath

This marks the line of an ancient right of way which was widened and levelled by a previous tenant farmer for the access of farm machinery. A second narrower causeway running north west from the summit provides an entrance through the outer bank.
The ditch is segmented having been cut by natural water erosion, the public right of way and a third causeway to the north east of the school. To the east of this causeway is the fishpond, which is the most clearly defined feature of all.

The pond measures approximately 45m by 30m and 2.2m deep. The level of preservation of this feature and the relative lack of silting compared to the rest of the ditch suggests the fishpond was a later reuse of the earlier defensive ditch. Although no upstanding earthworks can be seen on the field to the west of the ditch, crop marks visible on aerial photographs do show the continuation of the ditch to the west.  This follows the curve and mirrors the form of the surviving ditch and bank.  An outer circuit defines the north eastern quadrant of the complex. This is the smallest of the earthworks and manifests as a low bank about 0.6m-1m high which provides the basis of the existing field boundary. This follows the curve of the inner defensive ditch and bank. No continuation of its south end can be traced, but it would have originally been more extensive. Crop marks on aerial photographs do show the continuation of the feature to the west. Modern ploughing and open cast mining in the surrounding area will have contributed to the degradation of this feature. The enclosure created on the hill top by these defensive earthworks is occupied by the manorial complex including the main manorial building. In a field to the south of the School House are the earthwork remains of further manorial buildings and other structures. Geophysical survey has indicated that extensive buried remains survive throughout this field. To the south of the innermost enclosure and west of Yew Tree Farm are the remains of a hollow way. Partly overlain by the modern road the hollow way runs west for approximately 200m where it is truncated by Hawking Lane. The southern side of the hollow way survives to a height of about 1m. To the south of the hollow way and at its westernmost extent is the site of the chapel, the remains of which survive as an earthwork. The road verge around the west side of this field is formed by a bank with a hedge on top (an unusual boundary for this area). The base of the bank is composed of worked stone which may have come from the hapel building. A geophysical survey in this field has identified buried remains which are believed to relate to the chapel itself. The full extent of the southern end of the manorial complex is not fully understood. The enclosing earthworks may originally have extended further south to include a larger area of the hilltop. However, no further trace of defences is definable now. Continued settlement and use of the hilltop has obscured earlier remains of both the defensive circuit and activity within the enclosed area.

The manor of Stainsby, originally spelt Steinesbi, is first recorded in 1086in the Domesday Book when it is described as the manor of Steinesbi and Tunstall (with which it shared a priest). Immediately before the Norman Conquest Stainsby was held by Steinulf as part of a much larger estate. The break up of Steinulf’s estate began at the Conquest and Stainsby was granted by Henry II to William Fitz Walchel of Wakelin. It was then at least partly in the royal forest and therefore under the jurisdiction of Forest Law, dictated by the Crown’s monopoly over the hunting rights.   The Hardwick family, who were lords of the manor of Hardwick for six generations and who built up substantial estates in the district, ended in the mid-16th century with four co-heiresses, one of whom, Elizabeth (Bess of Hardwick), took Hardwick itself as her share.   Her second husband Sir William Cavendish and their descendants pursued a steady policy of buying up estates in the immediate environs in the parishes of Ault Hucknall and Heath. The two major settlements in the parishes were Stainsby and Heath itself. It is believed that the manor house at Stainsby ceased to be used as a family seat at the time of the Hardwicks. It may have been used as a farmhouse for sometime after or partly demolished, with its material being used for the building or repair of Hardwick Hall. By 1780 Stainsby had the second largest population in the area after Heath with 32 households and by 1801 the census return for Stainsby recorded 97 houses and 492 persons. The village continued to grow and prosper until the late 19th century when Stainsby’s decline as the natural centre of the parish began.

Two World War II air raid shelters are located in the field east of the Scout Centre and survive, infilled beneath the ground surface. These are still visible as earthworks and are included in the scheduling.  A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern boundary walls and fencing, all modern gates and water troughs, the surfaces of all tracks, paths, driveways, hard stands, and yards, all out buildings and garages, the School House, Baden-Powell Scout centre and Yew Tree Farm, although the ground beneath all these features is included in the scheduling.Stone trough and stile

Manorial centres were important foci of medieval rural life. Local agricultural and village life was normally closely regulated by the Lord of the Manor and thus the inhabitants of these sites had a central interest in many aspects of medieval life. Manorial sites could take many forms but the key focus was the manor house which was often an elaborate building reflecting the importance of the manorial lord. In addition to a manor house the complex would have included stables and other buildings, including store rooms for agricultural and other produce. Dovecotes used to keep doves as a food source were also common as were fishponds. A chapel also existed at many sites either within a room of the main manorial building or as a separate building. In many areas of the country manorial complexes were located within a moat, the moat further indicating the importance of the site but also providing an element of defence. Elsewhere the manorial centre was located within a central complex which included both earthwork and stone defences. Manorial complexes provide a major insight into medieval life and all well preserved examples are nationally important. The Stainsby complex is large and reasonably well preserved. Its enclosing earthworks are of unusual form and survive particularly well. The main defensive ditch remains waterlogged and will retain important environmental evidence relating to the date of the site and the environmental conditions at the time the site was in use.



The Savage Fields

On the death of Fitz Walchel Stainsby passed to his daughter Andeluya and her husband Robert Le Sauvage. The park was probably enclosed for hunting soon after the grant of free warren in 1199 although `parcum de Steynesbi’ is not mentioned until 1260. By the end of the 13th century the manor had become prosperous and the Crown recognised its economic potential. By 1311 an additional yearly rent of 4lbs of cummin, 2lbs of pepper and costly spices had to be paid to the Crown. In addition to Stainsby, the Sauvage family also held the manors of Rowthorne and Hardwick for a time. Their main home remained at Stainsby, where in the 14th century they maintained a chaplain.

The first Sir John Savage died in 1386 and his son, also John, succeeded him, and was knighted by Henry V for his services at the Battle of Agincourt  died in 1450, succeeded by his son. This third son John was a quiet countryman married to the daughter of Sir William Brereton and died in 1463.

The fourth John Savage was knighted by Henry VI. He was a Mayor of Chester, held offices connected with the Royal Manor and Forest of Macclesfield, and Henry VI made him one of the “feofees” or trustees of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was married to the daughter of Lord Stanley. One of his sons, Thomas, eventually became Archbishop of York, and was buried there in 1508, his heart alone being buried in Macclesfield.  The eldest son of the fourth Sir John Savage never lived to inherit the estates because he died during his father’s lifetime. He was a warlike character, a Knight of the Garter, having fought at the Battle of Bosworth.  He was killed during the siege of “Boloigne”.  His son, the sixth Sir John, fought valiantly at Flodden field. He and his son had quarrelled with a man called Pauncefote, and killed him. For this they were put in the Tower, and would have been executed but for the influence exerted on their behalf by Cardinal Wolsey and the Earl of Worcester ( a near relative). They were both pardoned and then released on condition that neither of them should ever set foot inside the counties of Chester or Worcester without special permission of the King. Sir John died in this banishment seven years later, but the sentence on his son was revoked in four years.

The seventh Sir John Savage succeeded his father in 1527 and although he was released from the sentence on banishment he never returned to the house at Clifton, dying in Rythin Castle in 1528 and leaving a son of three as the heir. By the time that this eighth Sir John grew up he had lost the family desire for martial glories, and had resolved to devote himself to the arts of peace. He became High Sheriff of Cheshire and was later appointed Seneschal of Halton by Queen Mary. He was also re-appointed to this post by Queen Elizabeth on her accession. In 1565 he was again High Sheriff and filled this office seven times in all, a unique achievement. 240px-Rocksavage_c1818It was he, who feeling the need for a more imposing home to enhance his high office, erected Rocksavage, a name derived from the rocky situation of the place and the family name. The old hall became a granary and outbuildings. The fine Tudor building was erected in 1568 by the same architect who designed Brereton Hall, a very similar place. BreretonHallIt has been said that Queen Elizabeth herself put down the foundation stones of both these places.   The manor remained the possession of the Sauvage family until around 1583 when it was sold to the Cavendish family whose family seat was Bolsover Castle.Bolsover_Castle1A