John Darley (c1595-1664) John-Nathan Darley (c1620-1699) John Darley (1648-1708)
Theodore Darley (1675-1743) Vincent Darley (1703-1764) Theodore Darley (1705-1776)
The Dispute Vincent Darley's Ghost / Black Dog

The Darley family arrived in North Hill for the first time around 1619. The place names of Darley and Darley Ford had existed in neighbouring Linkinhorne long before that date but no connection has been found between the place and the people, not that this has prevented the telling of the tale of the ghostly black dog, Darley. Unless, of course, you can tell us how the Darley family are connected to Darley Ford. We'd love to know.

The arrival of the Darley family in North Hill came about because of a meeting in London between Daniel Featley from Oxfordshire and John Darley of Beccles in Suffolk. John married Daniel's sister, Ann, and succeeded Daniel as Rector of North Hill.

Three consecutive generations of the Darley family were Rectors of North Hill from 1619 to 1710. The 18th century family had a long running dispute amongst themselves in various courts. One of their disagreements went as far as The Court of Appeal and was followed by ratification in the House of Lords.

The Darley family was recorded in North Hill in the 1620 Visitation of Cornwall.

Read on to meet the Darleys and learn about the major dispute that followed the death of Vincent Darley in 1764.

John Darley snr (c1595-1664) - Rector of St Torney's from 1619 to 1664

John Darley was born about 1595, the son of Nathan Darley from Beccles in Suffolk who married Maria Houghton there in 1593; the parish register entry for the marriage is shown here. Earlier generations of the Darley family lived in Buttercrambe in Yorkshire, 10 miles north east of York. John was educated at Magdalen College, Cambridge (shown here) and was awarded an MA in 1618. A devout Christian, and of Puritan leanings, he met Daniel Featley in London who was of a like persuasion. Their friendship and respect for one another lasted throughout their lives. John married Daniel's sister, Ann Featley, in St Mary's Church, Lambeth in 1619 and it is probable that Daniel officiated at the ceremony.

From 1613 to 1618 Daniel Featley was Rector of St Torney's in North Hill. He was invited to take up the prestigious living of St Mary's, Lambeth, which he naturaly accepted, leaving a vacancy in North Hill. In Lambeth Daniel was in almost daily conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury whose palace adjoined St Mary's (as shown here). It would be no surprise to learn that some influence was brought to bear to ensure that Daniel's brother in law, John Darley, was granted the position of Rector of St Torney's.

It was the Arscott family who had the rights to appoint the incumbent in St Torney's at that time. Daniel Featley's appointment as Rector of St Torney's had been founded on his friendship with Ezekial Arscott and an endorsement from the Archbishop would have ensured that John Darley succeeded Daniel Featley in North Hill.

John and Ann had four, or perhaps five, children; the surviving baptismal registers of North Hill do not start early enough for the baptisms of all the children:

  • - John-Nathan (c1620-1699) was rector of North Hill from 1664-1699
    - Anne Darley (c1620-?) was a beneficiary in the will of her uncle Daniel Featley in 1645, after which nothing is known about her
    - Dorothy Darley (-1634); a burial entry in St Torney's for a Dorothy Darley appears to be a child of John and Ann
    - Christian Darley (baptised 1627-?) nothing else is known
    - Nathan Darley, (baptised 1633-?) nothing else is known

In 1639 the advowson of North Hill was purchased from Edmund Arscott of Tetcott by Ann Darley and her brother Daniel Featley who paid £300 for the rights; the document recording this transaction says that the money was provided by Rector John Darley. Ann died in 1646 and John wrote a loving dedication to her in the burial register.

John was rector during the period of the turmoil of the time leading to the English Civil War, during the Commonwealth and the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. Cornwall was largely Royalist, as were the local gentry such as the Spoure family of Trebartha. In 1642 the King's army marched from Launceston through the village and across Berrio Bridge before climbing Port Lane to cross the edge of the moor on their way to engage the Parliamentary forces at Braddon Down, near Lostwithiel. Of course matters such as taxation, the imposition of the prayer book and constraints on general life affected North Hill, just as in most villages across the country, but this was as close as the village came to serious conflict.

From his association with Daniel Featley and, by imputation with Archbishop Abbott, it can be deduced that John Darley's form of worship was acceptable to the authorities. Presumably the local folk were also content with John as their incumbent. After all, he was Rector for almost 45 years during the uncertain times decribed above. John's pragmatism can be evidenced by the fact that he would have overseen the installation of the escutcheon over the church door in the time of Charles I, its removal and storage during the Commonwealth and then its reinstatement under Charles II. Perhaps he just turned it over so the royal arms faced the wall and turned it back when the time was right.

In 1662 John Darley wrote a treatise entitled "The Glory of Chelsey Colledge Revived" in which he attempted to salvage both the memory of Daniel Featley and obtain backing for the re-establishment of Chelsea College. The original Chelsea College was a short-lived Protestant theological institution founded by James I in 1610. Whether he succeeded with Daniel Featley's reputation is a matter for discussion by academics but we know that he failed with the re-instatement of Chelsea College. The Royal Hospital Chelsea now stands on the site.

The Reverend John Darley D.D. died in 1664 and was buried in St Torney's on 9th November 1664. He was succeeded as Rector of St Torney's by his son, John-Nathan Darley (c1620-1699).


John-Nathan Darley (c1620-1699) - Rector of St Torney's from 1664 to 1699

John-Nathan Darley was named after his father and grandfather, John and Nathan respectively. He was born about 1620, probably in North Hill. At the age of 16 he was sent to Oxford University where he studied for his BA. He took holy orders and whether he had a living outside Norh Hill is not known. He succeeded his father as Rector of North Hill in 1664. As Rector he would have also enjoyed the use of the glebe land.

John-Nathan married Margaret Compton around 1646. There are suggestions that the marriage took place on 12 March 1646/7 at St Mary Arches in Exeter but this has not been substantiated. Two children are known to have come from the marriage. They were both boys and were named John and Thomas. They were baptised by their grandfather John Darley in St Torney's in 1648 and 1650. Between them John and Thomas gave John-Nathan and Margaret Darley eighteen grandchildren, as can be seen from the family tree shown below.

The image of John-Nathan Darley (click for a larger image) has been taken from The Book of Spoure.


John Darley jnr (1648-1708) - Rector of St Torney's from 1699 to 1708

Like his father John was educated at Oxford University. Following the completion of his studies he returned to North Hill to become his father's curate. He succeeded his father as Rector at St Torney's in 1699. John had married Elizabeth Twycross about 1673 and they had seven children (see above).

Their eldest, John-Nathan, went to Oxford University and earned his BA in 1695 but no more is known about him. Their second son, Theodore, married Sarah Vincent of Battens. Jane, their second daughter, married the Reverend John Roberts who was Rector of North Hill from 1716 to 1748.

John Darley died in 1708 and was buried in St Torney's. Elizabeth died on 14 March 1724 and at her burial is recorded as "patroness of North Hill". John's estate passed to his son Theodore (1675-1743).

The image of John Darley (click for a larger image) has been taken from The Book of Spoure.


Theodore Darley snr (1675-1743) and his wife Sarah (nee Vincent, 1674-1737)

Theodore Darley was the son of John Darley and Elizabeth Twycross. Born in 1675 he married at the age of about 18 to Sarah the daughter of John Vincent of Battens. They had eight children but two, both named Frances, died in infancy. The remaining six children are shown in the family tree above. Theodore was a qualified attorney at law and his two sons, Vincent and Theodore, followed in his footsteps and became similarly qualified.

Sarah's elder sister, Elizabeth, had married the widower Richard Acland about 1700. She probably took a substantial dowry with her to the marriage, provided by her father John Vincent. Elizabeth's marriage was short and childless as she was widowed about 1702. A series of legal cases between the Vincents and the Aclands ensued because Richard's children, by his first marriage, believed they were entitled to the dowry as it formed part of their father's estate. John Vincent disagreed and to ensure that the Aclands would have no claim on his estate he conveyed, through his "natural love and affection" all his property to his second daughter, Sarah, in 1708. John Vincent died in 1710 without having written a will, presumably because he had little left to bequeath.

Sarah died in 1737 and her husband, Theodore, died in 1743. Theodore wrote his will on 27 August 1743 and by 14 September he was buried at St Torney's. His estate was not inconsiderable. It included Battens, tenements in Lake and Gospelhead, livestock, mortgages, money and personal effects. His two sons clashed over the will's contents. Vincent, being the eldest son, received the bulk of the estate. Theodore jnr, the second and youngest son, received one shilling.

The Bequest of One Shilling. It may be that being given a small bequest such as "one shilling" signifies disapproval and disinheritance. It may also signify that the beneficiary has already received his portion of the estate and the small bequest may simply be included to ensure that there is no subsequent argument that he had been forgotten. Given the persistent nature of the family dispute, in this instance it is safe to assume that a section of the family was being 'cut off with a shilling'.


Vincent Darley (1703-1764)

Vincent Darley, the eldest son of Theodore Darley snr, was baptised in St Torney’s Church on 14th March 1703. Vincent had no children of his own. In 1744 he married Elizabeth, the widow of George Newton who had died in 1731, leaving Elizabeth with two daughters - Elizabeth and Margaret.

Vincent's stepdaughter, Elizabeth, married in 1757 to Thomas Adams and they had five children. Margaret married Henry Nogle, the curate at St Torneys, about 1761. Henry died in 1768 and she remarried to the Reverend John Wollcock in 1770. He was the incumbent of St Augustine, Watling Street, which was formerly located just to the east of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It was destroyed in the Second World War but its remains now form part of the famous St Paul's Cathedral Choir School. John Wollcock has an engraved memorial in St Torney's.

In his lifetime, Vincent was an active member of the community. As a member of the gentry he held lands which he leased to tenants and this social position enabled him to take up offices in both church and community. There are over 50 documents in the Cornwall Record Office (Kresen Kernow) in Redruth which bear his name. Most are land transactions but others evidence his position as a gentleman and show him upholding the law through his representations at the Quarter Sessions.

Whilst his father was the squire of Battens, Vincent was an attorney at law based in Callington. In 1735 he took on a young articled clerk, John Browne, to learn the ways of the legal system. After his father's death he returned to Battens as squire. In 1758 Vincent led a case against John Luskey, a local farmer. Vincent and his neighbouring farmers with rights to graze animals on Twelve Men’s Moor, objected to John Luskey's excessive over-grazing of the moor. You can read more about this through the links on the Twelve Men’s Moor page on this website.

Vincent Darley's will was written in October 1759. He died just over four years later on the 8th February 1764. The distance in time between the dates was to become highly significant, as explained below in the section headed 'The Dispute'.

He was buried in St Torney's three days later, the terms of his will saying:
"... for my Body I Commit to the Earth from whence it came to be decently interred in or near the Vault or Tomb of my Ancestor Thomas Vincent Gentleman with an Inscription on a piece of White Marble to be engraved and Placed either at the head or Foot of the said Tomb Showing that my remains was buryed there with the day of the Month and date of the Year and whatever else is decent my Executors shall think fit and which I will to be done within one Year next after my death ..."

This plaque is on the north wall of St Torney's and reads
"SACRED to the Memory of VINCENT DARLEY late of Battens in this Parish Esqr who died on the 8th Day of February 1764. Aged 64
And of ELIZABETH his Widow who died on the 3d Day of February 1791. Aged 88."

After Vincent’s death a ‘ghostly’ story was put about regarding his haunting of the road we now know as the B3254 from Darley Ford to North Hill village. The story of Vincent’s apparition, frequently as a black dog, was detailed by Barbara C Spooner in 1926 and is repeated below.


Theodore Darley jnr (1705-1776)

Theodore was Vincent's only brother. He was 2 years younger and they were probably locking horns from a young age. When their father died in 1743 Vincent was living in Callington and Theodore was in Battersea, now part of London. Like their father, both brothers were attorneys at law and Theodore practiced out of Clements Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery that formed part of the prestigious Inner Temple.

Theodore had seven children with his wife, Anne. Three of these children were alive in 1743, William aged 3, Utritia aged 2 and Cassandra aged 1, but none was mentioned in their grandfather's will. The slight of his children not being recognized would only enrage Theodore, particularly as he himself was only granted one shilling in the will. Theodore unsuccessfully contested his father's will which deepened the family dispute.

Theodore died in the summer of 1776 but no record has survived to tell us where he died or where he is buried. In his will he left the following unusual instruction:

"I do hereby desire that I may not be buried within a Fortnight after my Death but be kept in an open coffin so long as possible"

He was unlikely to have been buried in North Hill where the registers are quite comprehensive. It is more likely that he died in Bovingdon in Hertfordshire where his son William lived, or in his accommodation in the Inns of Court in London. He left almost all his estate to his son William who never took up residence in North Hill.


The Dispute

The Cause of the Dispute. We don't know when the dispute between the brothers Vincent Darley and Theodore Darley jnr began, and what started it, but the underlying issue was money.

Both Vincent and Theodore jnr were qualified attorneys at law, explaining the manner in which the family dispute was conducted through the courts and, therefore, open to public gaze. For half of the 18th century the Darley family were both plaintiffs and defendants in legal cases against one another, details of which are to be found in The National Archives.

The following is a timeline through the dispute.

1710 to 1743 - Adminstration of Estates. John Vincent, father of Sarah Darley, died intestate in 1710. It was, therefore, the responsibility of his daughter, Elizabeth Acland, to wind up the estate of her father, but she failed to do this. When she died in 1733 in London it was left to her only surviving relative, her sister Sarah Darley, to deal with both Elizabeth's and their father's estates, but Sarah didn't do this either. When Sarah died in 1737 her husband, Theodore snr, was supposed to deal with Sarah's estate and by extension, Elizabeth Acland's and John Vincent's estates as well. Theodore failed to adminster these estates before he died in 1743 and it was left to his son, Vincent Darley to resolve this legal hiatus, which included some fallout from the scandal of the South Sea Bubble.

1720 - The South Sea Bubble. The South Sea Company was created in early 1720. It was initially seen as a lucrative investment opportunity for the monied classes The crash of the company after a few short months has since become a milestone in world economic history, now known as The South Sea Bubble. Investors included Sarah Darley's sister, Elizabeth Acland.

The Acland family were caught up in the investment frenzy through one of the company's sub-governors, Peter Burrell, who had married Anne Acland. It is likely that Sarah's husband, Theodore Darley snr, was also an investor and like most other subscribers, lost large amounts of money. Attempts by investors to recoup their losses rumbled on for years after the crash.

1743 - Theodore Darley senior's Will. Theodore wrote his will on 27 August 1743 and died two weeks later. His estate was not inconsiderable. It included Battens, tenements in Lake and Gospelhead, livestock, mortgages, money and personal effects. His two sons clashed over the will's contents. Vincent, being the eldest son received the bulk of the estate. Theodore junior, the second and youngest son, received one shilling. Theodore contested the will but in 1744 the court decided that he he had no justifiable claim and probate was granted to Vincent. Resentment would have festered between the two brothers.

1759 - Vincent Darley's Will. Vincent wrote his will in 1759. He had had no children and was determined to ensure that his siblings, other than his sister Essex, did not significantly benefit from his death. The most important bequests were arranged in this order in the will:

  • Theodore (brother) - one shilling
  • Mary Gould (sister), her husband Robert and their children - one shilling each
  • Sarah Marshall's (sister) children - one shilling each
  • Sarah Marshall - an annuity of £5
  • Essex Langworthy (sister) and her husband - 5 guineas each
  • Thomas Darley, John Darley, Joseph Darley, Benjamin Darley, John-Nathan Darley, Benjamin Darley junior, Richard Darley and his brothers - "one guinea if they shall attend and carry me to my grave"; these people were cousins and would not have expected to have received anything, let alone the honour of carrying Vincent to his final resting place; this may have represented another slight to Theodore
  • George Vincent Langworthy (10 year old son of sister, Essex) - all the real estate, if he were to stop using "the name of Langworthy and use the name of George Vincent only or the surname of Darley" - which he did
  • Elizabeth Darley (wife) - the rest of the estate including the furniture, goods and livestock at Battens for as long as she lived there

A problem that worried Vincent was that some of the real estate, including Battens, was owned but had a restriction on it. The restriction controlled who the future owners were to be, and defined them in law. This was not unusual with property at the time as families often passed property down over many generations. George Vincent Langworthy and Elizabeth Darley were not cited as the future owners, either by name or family relationship, on the title documents for the real estate. In September 1763 Vincent decided to do something about this through a legal process called 'Common Recovery', which would remove the restriction.

1763 - Common Recovery. This was a long established legal collusion. By using this process Vincent knowingly conveyed the restricted property as an unrestricted property to a third party, and then recovered it as an unrestricted property, thereby losing the restriction. Vincent seems to have been unaware, though, that the law dictated that losing control of the property would change the nature of the property, thereby revoking those parts of his will that mentioned it. It was as if the now unrestricted, recovered real estate had not been mentioned in the will and for that part of his estate Vincent would die intestate. Any property not formally bequeathed automatically passed to the "heir at law", which was his brother, Theodore. As Vincent's intention was that the property did not pass to Theodore, Vincent needed to write a new will that revoked his 1759 will and set out his wishes again. Vincent did not rewrite his will.

1764 (February) - Vincent Darley Died. Following Vincent's death came the reading of the will. Theodore, being a practicing lawyer, realized that he was heir at law for the real estate that had had restrictions removed and lodged his intention to contest the will. The dispute worsened as the family wrestled to take possession of the lands, properties, livestock and household goods.

1765 - Theodore Contests The Will In Chancery. Theodore applied to the Court of Chancery in 1765 asking for all Vincent's real estate to be given to him, along with any income derived from it since Vincent's death. He cited the matter of the common recovery and that no further will had been written. Elizabeth, on her own behalf and that of other beneficiaries from the will, responded admitting that some of Theodore's claim was true. This was the beginning of a process reminiscent of Jarndyce and Jarndyce from Dickens' Bleak House but in this case the adversaries were Vincent's wife, Elizabeth, and her brother in law, Theodore.

1766 (December) - The Case Heard In Chancery. In December 1766 the court heard the case and agreed that Theodore was the heir at law but that the matter of whether or not Vincent's will had been revoked by the common recovery needed to be considered by The Court of Common Pleas. They referred the case for consideration.

1767 (July) - The Court of Common Pleas. The court sat to consider this question in July 1767 and decided that the common recovery did amount to revoking those parts of the will where the common recovery had been applied. The matter was referred to the House of Lords who concurred with this ruling. The case was sent back to Chancery.

1767 (November) - The Case Is Back In Chancery. The case was heard again in November 1767 and Chancery subsequently declared that, based upon the ruling from the Court of Common Pleas, Theodore was entitled under law to the property in question, along with any lost income since Vincent's death, which Elizabeth was now ordered to pay.

Chancery also addressed the matter of the tenement known as Bond's Walls. The fields between the B3254 and the track leading down to Battens Mill is Bonds Wall's, as shown here on the 1840 Tithe Map (click for a larger image). Before Victorian times Battens Mill had been known as Bonds Wall's Mill, having been owned by the Bond family of Quethiock and described as a glebe boundary in the Calendar of Glebe Terriers in 1680. Vincent specifically mentioned Bond's Walls in his will:

"I am intitled unto a ... Tenement called Bondswalls lying Contiguous and adjoyning with Battens aforesaid for the Remainder of a Term of nine hundred years ... It is my Will that the same may goe unto and always ... be enjoyed by the Owner and Possessor of Battens ... and not be separated therefrom ..."

(Extract from the tithe map has been reproduced with the kind permission of Kresen Kernow ref: AD1409/1)

Considering this, his Lordship, in his ruling, ordered that because Vincent had expressed his wish that whoever owned Battens must also own Bond's Walls, then Bonds Wall's must also be turned over to Theodore.

Turning to Vincent's clothes, furniture, cash in hand, livestock, vehicles etc., all held at Battens, the court ruled that because Battens was part of the revocation, so was everything in it.

The official report of the case, in a masterful case of understatement, says "The appellant [Elizabeth] being dissatisfied with this decree ... petitioned for a rehearing..." in respect of the personal estate, the chattel estate and Bond's Walls. Elizabeth had become reconciled to losing the real estate but to take everything else was beyond the pale. Soon after this ruling she lodged an appeal.

1769 (April) - Elizabeth's Appeal. Elizabeth lost her case as "... his Lordship was pleased to affirm the former decree", but undaunted she appealed again.

1774 (June) - Elizabeth's Final Appeal Is Heard. This time it was to appeal against the ruling that Bond's Walls should be included in the revocation and, consequently, that the personal and chattel estate ruling should also be overturned.

The court considered the difference between Vincent's declared intent and his presumed intent when he wrote his will. It was clear to the court that Vincent intended to give both Battens and Bond's Walls to his wife as an entire and whole gift but he revoked the gift of Battens through the common recovery. This effectively separated the two and whilst Battens was to descend to Theodore, Bond's Walls was still subject to the terms of the will and would go to Elizabeth.

The court record says (the italics are taken directly from the court record and were a means for the court to emphasise their understanding and ruling) that whilst Vincent ...

" ... declared, that his wife should have and enjoy for her life, the use of all the household goods, plate and furniture at Battens , and the stock [animals] ... [Vincent] did not appear to prescribe that she should enjoy them at Battens .. and that she should not enjoy them elsewhere."

... drawing the distinction between a description of the location of the goods as opposed to a requirement of where the goods were to be enjoyed.

1774 (June) - Final Ruling.The court heard lengthy arguments from both sides and eventually reversed the ruling that granted Bond's Walls, the furniture, household goods and stock to Theodore. Elizabeth was also discharged from the requirement that she had to live at Battens to enjoy her bequests. Theodore, however, won the day as far as Battens and the other real estate was concerned. No further court actions were fought over this issue between Elizabeth and Theodore.

The Aftermath Of The Dispute. Presumably Elizabeth moved out of Battens to Langstone near Coad's Green, probably taking her bequests with her; she wrote her will in 1791 whilst living at Langstone. Theodore eventually took unrestricted control of Battens. Whether he took up residence is uncertain, but does not seem likely. He died in 1776 and is not buried in North Hill, indicating that he stayed in and around London. He may have lived at Bovingdon in Hertfordshire with his son, William, who inherited Theodore's estate

The legal wranglings rumbled on though, now between Elizabeth and William. In 1782 William applied to have Elizabeth's annuity of £50, sourced from income from the Battens lands, reduced to £39 13s 1d. The settlement of this issue was resolved with the reduced annuity and also with a firm demarcation of ownership of some property. William had Burgess Meadow, part of Battens, Treswell and the moiety (part ownership) of manor of Rillaton Peverell whilst Elizabeth had the Way Cross Land and the Easter Cross Land, part of Battens, Bligh's tenement, Bond's Walls Mill (now Battens Mill), Lake, Lewarne and a moiety of the manor of Rillaton Peverell. This arrangement sounds rather more amicable than the dealings earlier in the century.

Elizabeth died in 1791 and is buried near her husband, Vincent Darley, in St Torney's. William died in 1794 in Lyme Regis in Dorset. The lands and property over which the family had quarrelled for so long were bought up over the next few decades by the Rodd family of Trebartha Hall. The Darley family's eventful association with North Hill had come to an end ...

... except for ...

Vincent Darley's Ghost / Black Dog

Local resident, Carole Saunders, not known at all for flights of fancy but for her practical, level headed approach to life in general, recounted this event:

"I moved into Botternell Farm in February 2008 and it was while I was travelling from home, along the B3254 towards Liskeard, I slowed down to pass an old man dressed in dark clothing, hunched over and carrying a bundle of kindling on his right shoulder. This encounter was just past North Darley House on the left hand side of the road. I was so intrigued by the image that I remarked to my husband on my return home about how 'quaint' life is in rural Cornwall and described what I had seen. At this time I had no knowledge of any ghost stories and in fact did not learn about Darley's Ghost until several years later.

"This memory remains with me and is still very vivid. I now know, of course, that folk around here do not go about such daily tasks and what I witnessed was far from normal."

Who was it that she encountered? Could it have been Vincent Darley?
Perhaps the past experiences of others can answer that question.
Read on ...

"The Dog Called Darley" (April 1926. Old Cornwall 1:9, pp23-26.)

"Battens, now a farmhouse, is in North Hill churchtown. It passed from the Battins to the Vincents by marriage, and between 1606 and 1664, also by marriage, from the Vincents to the Darleys, once of Darley in Linkinhorne1, famous for the Darley Oak; the east end of Thomas Vincent's altar tomb (1601) is occupied by the carving of an oak-tree, as if the time were foreseen when Darleys would swallow up Vincents in marriage. The outcome of this latter marriage was Vincent Darley late of Battens in this Parish Esq., who died on the 8th day of February 1764, aged 64 - and is the black dog in question.

"Darley" has a regular route, and has been seen on all parts of it, either as a black dog or as a man carrying a bundle of sticks on his back; but mostly as the dog. He is known for some miles round. His route begins at Darley Ford, although by 1588 at the latest, the Darleys had left "Derley", and it ends at Battens.

"Some years ago a former tenant of Darley Farm, another man, and a boy, went down to the Ford and waited, at dead of night, to see what they'd see. Presently they heard the "pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat" of padded feet coming towards them, then two great shining eyes appeared, and lastly a big black dog! The boy's hair lifted, the farmer flung back his stick to hit out—and here comes the anti-climax; for the three, having either expected to see "Darley" in his own shape, or else having taken comfort from the very real howl of the hit dog, went back home unhurried and in peace, and said nothing more about ghosts. Yet the fact remains, they set out expecting to see something not of this world. And that something was "Darley."

"He was seen near "Bodandel" or Botternell Turning by three people; two women, and a man akin to the woman who told me this. They were walking from Darley to Berriow after chapel one Sunday night, when he appeared to them as a black dog, and after the manner of such "dogs," pushed them apart, taking the crown of the road. Their feelings can best be imagined.

"According to another woman, the dog leaves the Liskeard road at Botternell, and follows the lane down to Bathpool and up to Lydgate Corner, that much-hated place. He is then known as "Will Darley"2. But that is a modern accretion due to the dread inspired by a man called Will Darley, who frequented North Hill about fifty years ago, and may still be living. The real "Darley" keeps to the Liskeard road as far as Berriow.

"He has been seen near Berriow Bridge, in the old carriage-drive belonging to Battens. This entered Bond's Walls Field just above Berriow Bridge, crossed the road leading from "Isaac's Turning" to North Hill churchtown, went up the steep opposite field, and so down into Battens yard. Two trees are all that now mark the old entrance, "decayed" and "ancient" in 1817, and Catern 3 Buckingham's cottage stood not far from it, near Battens Mill. Catern and her "young man" were sitting comfortably on a seat near the porch of the cottage one night, when who should come along to them in the dark but "Vincent Darley," in the shape of a big black dog? Catern's man hurled a broom at him. Very promptly the dog swelled up "so big as a yearling." then vanished in a ball of fire, and such thunder crashed round and such lightning illumined the night that the two clung to each other, too scared to move. Yet there was neither thunder nor lightning in North Hill Churchtown! Catern was a young woman when it happened. She was eighty-four when she first told it to my informant, who could scarcely credit it, some sixty years past.

"Darley" is next seen further up the old drive, where it crosses the steep field next to Battens yard. Grace Blatchford4 and two others were going arm-in-arm over the field from Battens yard to Bond's Walls on their way to Berriow, and they were forced to unlink arms for him to pass. Grace told my informant. It is about seventy years since this happened.

"And finally "Darley" is seen at Battens. A certain woman was weeding in the garden at Battens, when her heart nearly stopped beating, and she looked up, and there stood "Darley." He was in the shape of a man wearing a beaver hat and leggings, with a log of wood on his back.

"One hundred and sixty-five years they cover between them—the woman who saw him standing there and who told Grace Lark5; Grace Lark herself, and the woman who was told by Grace Lark, and told me. For "Vincent Darley late of Battens in this Parish Esq." say his wall tablet in the church, died on the 8th day of February, 1764. And the woman who "saw" him had known him alive. She said he was tall; a fine figure of a man, but eccentric and given to wandering. She said this to Grace Lark, who told the woman who told me; so the personality of "Darley" has been preserved for one hundred and sixty five years only by word of mouth. More than happens to most of us.

"Since Darley's days Battens, very much rebuilt, has been let out in tenements, has housed a dame school under Mrs. Rodda6, and for about one hundred years has been let to the Palmers, the family of yeoman farmers now in residence. It has also been very well haunted, as Mrs. Rodda6 could witness: ghost china and ghostly silk have chinked and rustled, and "Darley" has driven his coach like thunder into the yard. One of the Palmers' men had to saddle up very early in the morning to go somewhere—and the coach came! There was the most awful racket—the farmhorses stampeded, and the terrified man thought the house was falling to pieces, though the people inside heard nothing.

"There was also — but that again was in Mrs. Rodda's time — the little matter of the string-drawn trolley which was not the coach!"

Note: Not all the 'facts' stated in this article can be substantiated or proven but the article has been faithfully reproduced, word for word. Readers can evaluate for themselves the accuracy of any statements contained in the article but must bear in mind, this is a ghost story!


1 The connection between the surname and the place name is not proven (see above)

2 William "Will" Darley was born in 1837, one of twins, the first children of John Darley and Elizabeth Pearce. This branch of the family traces its line back through John-Nathan Darley, the son of John Darley and Mary Crocker (see the family tree above). In the 1850s William joined the 58th Regiment of Foot but his service seems to have been short lived as he embarked on a career of burglary and prison sentences. In 1870 he was sentenced, for a burglary in Tavistock, to seven years in prison, followed by four years police supervision after his release. Having been released in 1877 he immediately absconded and The Police Gazette published his description, seeking his detention. By 1881 he was in Portland Prison in Dorset; this was probably a second term of seven years for burglary. In 1884 he was convicted again for housebreaking and his two terms of seven years were taken into consideration when he was then sentenced to ten years penal servitude. In 1891 he was in Aylesbury Prison in Buckinghamshire. His fate after that is uncertain but he may have been buried in Tower Hamlets, London in February of 1901. He never married and had children, as far as is known, but the census return for 1881 shows him as married.

3 "Catern" was Catherine Buckingham (nee Lark) (1789-1875), the wife of Richard Buckingham (1789-1860).

4 Grace Blatchford (1815-1893).

5 Grace Lark (nee Buckingham) (1812-1881), the wife of John Lark (c1810-1897); Grace was the first cousin once removed of Richard Buckingham who married Catherine Lark (see footnote 3).

6 This may have been Mrs Rodd, wife of the Rector. No family of Rodda has been identified in the parish at this time.


The headline image shows Reverend John-Nathan Darley (c1620-1699), the Darley Coat of Arms, St Torney's Church as it was in the 17th century and Reverend John Darley (1648-1708)