Just outside the village of Eyam, in the Peak District lies the village of Stoney Middleton where, according to folklore, in 1762 a young woman by the name of Hannah Baddeley, who was born in the late 1730s, tried to commit suicide by throwing herself over the cliff top.
This is her story as told by a somewhat over enthusiastic reporter for The Buxton Herald, some 80 years later the event, so read into it as you wish! We have tried to find references to the story closer to its time, but somehow the press of the day managed to miss this story, despite reporting similar ones, as you will see at the end.
Hannah Baddeley, a very beautiful young lady was greatly admired for the ardour of love which her incomparable charms created in the bosom of the village swains of Stoney Middleton, the place of her birth and residence. Amongst the many who sought to obtain the affections of the innocent young Hannah, was a young, intelligent man, named Baldwin, who, after countless visits had the happiness to think that his labour would be crowned with success. Enraptured with joy, Baldwin became even more assiduous until he beheld in ecstasy the unequivocal signs of reciprocal affection.
Humble in worldly circumstances, yet the loving couple felt all the blissful glow, the undefinable and delicious sensation of first, pure love. Often, they walked forth and enjoyed their lonely wandering a happiness that to them momentarily increased. The tangled walks along the rugged steeps which overhang the village of their homes, were as a paradise; their hearts were entwined round each other in all the glowing fervency of concentrated bliss.
Months passed away, yet the blissful sunshine of love, in which Baldwin and Hannah walked seemed to increase in glowing, fervent and deeply intoxicating splendor: they were happy and dreamed not of its transitory nature. Alas! Alas! experience tells us of countless instances, in which suns have risen in hope and glory, in which bright prospects of future happiness have been suddenly overshadowed and darkened by the sable shades of maddening disappointment, bitterly agonizing.
Inscrutable as are the operations of the human mind, still, from certain effects, it may be presumed that there is in reality a kind of similarly exiting between the immaterial portion of man, and the material things of the world. When any physical agent or instrument is exercised immoderately, it is soon destroyed; so with the mind, if any of its affections be excited to an unnatural height or pitch, it will, if not regulated in time, lose its zest, become in a manner paralyzed and decay.
The conduct of Baldwin might be instanced in corroboration of the opinion here advanced: for, strange and novel as it may appear, in about twelve months from the commencement of his love for the lovely Hannah, he relapsed gradually into a state of luke-warmness as respects his passion, and at length into total apathy. His visits became less frequent and soon ceased forever. But how was this borne by the lovely confiding Hannah she sank beneath the stroke with all the terrible anguish of a broken spirit. For hours she would sit gazing at the wall in silent stupefaction; then would burst forth a flood of tears bringing short solace. Hapless Hannah! Despair at length began to urge her to escape the bitter pangs she endured by self-destruction: terrible – awful remedy!
After a few months past in this deplorable condition, Hannah resolved to put period to her miserable existence by throwing herself from one of the highest rocks in Middleton dale, a resolution too horrible to contemplate. She repaired to the top of a towering rock early in the morning of the day following her resolution. Her bonnet and handkerchief she laid on an adjoining thorn, and with clasped hands and loose hair waving in the morning breeze, she passionately thus exclaimed
‘O my Baldwin, my Baldwin, false Baldwin, no I will not call thee false, my love, my life, thee whom I loved, I still love thee still. O my love, wilt thou not come to my grave and shed one tear to the memory of her who died for thee? I’ll bless thee again, my love, and then from this dizzy height I’ll cast myself and prove to thee and the world, my love is stronger than death. I sink, I go, my love, my love’.
Hannah sprang from the rock, which is upwards of eighty feet high, but incredible as it may seem, she fell upon a rocky projection, then among some thorns which then grew from the side of the rock, and reached the ground very little injured. The villagers were soon on the spot, and the rash maid was conveyed home, but the sense of her miraculous escape totally erased from her mind the maddening it of love under which she had laboured. She lived a few years after, unmarried and died after having spent that period in a pious and highly exemplary manner*. Such is a brief outline of the story which has been given the designation ‘Lover’s Leap’ to the high and romantic rock in Middleton Dale – a story well authenticated, as may be satisfactorily proved.
Not until the last line of the article does the author tells their readers that ‘the name Baldwin is assumed in consequence of the author not having any means at hand to ascertain the real name of Hannah’s lover‘. Quite why he came up with that name will remain a mystery!
As with any folklore story, newspapers over time have recorded events somewhat differently, some saying that her fall was broken by some small trees and when found she was taken home and gradually recovered from the serious injuries, although she was crippled as a result of the fall.
Other accounts say that she was found by workmen at the pit and when asked how she fell she said that she had been walking up the dale to fetch the cows and her foot slipped.
We know that Baldwin was not the real name of the gentleman, but other reports name him as Johnson and say that he was quite a charmer and told all the young girls the same story about how much he loved them, Hannah was, apparently, just one of many and that he moved on from the neighbourhood after this occurrence. According to reports locally however, the gentleman in question was in fact a William Barnsley.
This idea of young women throwing themselves off high cliffs after being rejected seems to have been somewhat more commonplace than you would have imagined, as there are several places named ‘Lover’s Leap’ around the country, all with similar stories as their origin. We’ve listed a few below, including one leap down the necessary!
* Although we have not been able to view the parish records for Stoney Middleton, another site appears to confirm Hannah’s burial on the 12th December 1764 and gives her parents’ names as William and Joan Baddeley.
Derbyshire Courier, 21 September 1878
The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, February 14, 1883
The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, Saturday, May 04, 1889
True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797
Featured Image (although not Georgian it shows exactly where Lover’s Leap is):
Lover’s Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum