The Rock House Families

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rock House Families' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rock House Families' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rock House Families' page

John Bramwell, my gt gt Grandfather

By Angela Roche

My gt gt Grandfather, John Bramwell, was born in 1815 and died in 1900, age 85. During most of his life he had made his home in the Rock Houses on Rock Hill, Mansfield. He had converted what was formerly the stack yard of the besom makers into a desireable garden. He had raised 10 children, all born in the Rock House, with his wife Sarah. Only one had died during infancy, all of the other children survived to a good old age. In his garden he grew many plants, herbs and fruit trees. Amongst his collection of herbs were, swallow wort, pennyroyal, hysop, sage, motherwort, saffron, rosemary, lavender, thyme, mint and balm. His flowers were lily of the valley, pinks, roses, hyacinths, pansies, jasmine and many other varieties only known to the expert botanist.

His occupation was that of framework knitter. His daughters worked in cotton mills, and his sons laboured in local foundries. His youngest son, John George was a local blacksmith, and worked on Toothill Lane.

He was photographed  by Albert Sorby Buxton, in the late 1890's,  and also had a painting produced by the same artist, showing him stood outside  his humble home.

This page was added on 09/08/2010.
Comments about this page

It's such a shame Mansfield Council has let the last Rock House fall into decay, our Gt Gt Grandfather would be cross but proud of his Gt Gt Granddaughters keeping his memory alive.

By Pam Kitchen
On 10/08/2010

As a child in the 1960's I grew up on Rock Hill and played for many hours in the old rock houses. Recently in France I visited a 'Troglodyte' cave, restored as a museum and visitor centre. Perhaps restoration of the Rock houses for tourism, if not historical merit might be considered?

By Penny Marsden
On 11/08/2010

Regarding that other picture of the Bramwells cave doorway which looks to be taken about the same time, does anybody know if the two people are Sarah Bramwell and possibly one of her sons, he does not appear to resemble the man in the other photo. David Clay

By David Clay
On 23/08/2010

The photo with the couple was taken at a later date. We are not sure of their exact identity, but we assume that they are related to John Bramwell, and it was possibly taken at the time when John had died, 1900. They may have been emptying his house after his death. David, are you related to the Bramwell's?

By Angela Roche
On 25/08/2010

I am not related to the Bramwells but I used to live at "Redcroft" in the 1960s where that particular cave was in the front garden, although the ajoining caves were demolished by the coalboard around 1982 due to mining subsidence the one in the photograph is still there, the new owner of "Redcroft" has recently bricked up the entrance because a tramp was living in there, it was a beautiful secluded spot when I lived there but it is now in a mess, the new owner is interested in getting some sort of Grant to restore the cave area, I still live nearby and have made a study of the area for many years,that paticular cave was reinforced and made into an air raid shelter during the second world war which has saved it from collapse, the entrance could easily be made to look again as it did in the photograph when the Bramwells lived there, I have numerous pictures of Rock Hill caves but only 2 of that one as it was set well back from the road it seemed to get missed by the photographers and artistes. Many years ago Jack Featherstone an elderly man who lived all his life on Mill Street told me he did errands as a boy for the last man who lived in the caves.

By David Clay
On 31/08/2010

I'm researching my family tree and that of my husband. His g-g-g-grandfather's brother, Daniel Comery, is listed on 1881 census as living at 'Rock Houses', Mansfield, aged 52. He was a widower and also a framework knitter, as was Mr Bramwell. I wonder if they were neighbours? Oddly enough, my brother-in-law is also a Bramwell...maybe connected way back?

By Angela Randall
On 31/08/2010

I am trying to research my mother in laws family who lived in the Rock House in early 1900. My mother in laws name is Dorothy Bramwell, her father was John Clay Bramwell, his brother was David Clay Bramwell. There mother was Charlotte Bramwell daughter of William Bramwell and Maria Bramwell. They lived here in the 1881 census. Are these any relatives of yours ? I was wondering if William Bramwell was the son of John and Sarah Bramwell.. who lived a few houses away, we haven't managed to go that far back yet ?

By Chrissie Milner
On 07/09/2010

John Bramwell was also my gt gt Grandfather my gt Grandfather was William Bramwell and my Grandmother was his daughter Charlotte Bramwell she had three children Sarah Ann Bramwell, my father John Clay Bramwell and David Clay Bramwell all I knew about my fathers family was they lived in Rock Houses in Mansfield I never met any of his family so to see and read about my roots was emmotional

By Dorothy Milner
On 07/09/2010

Thank you for all the interesting comments. It seems that we have some mutual relatives here. I am especially interested in the fact that the old rock house is still there. David, would you kindly contact me, as I and my cousin would dearly like to take a look at it. And with regards to any family history involving the Rock Houses and the families who lived there, I would be only to happy to help anyone with their family trees. Angela Randall, there was a marriage between the Bramwell's and the Comery's, from the Rock Houses. If you contact me I can let you know more. And yes, Chrissie, William Bramwell was the son of John & Sarah Bramwell, who lived a few houses away. So if you can contact me, I can give you more information.

By Angela Roche
On 20/09/2010

I should love to see my gt gt grandfather's rock home, if it is possible. It would be good if it could be put back to how it was. We have many family member's that come to visit Mansfield just to see the Caves, but nothing much to show them, even the one on the main road is over grown. I wish the council would do some thing.

By Pam Kitchen
On 03/10/2010

Hi everybody, I am the Chairman of the Newgate Lane & racecourse Area Neighbourhood Management Team. . I am trying to get the caves historical importance recognised and am working with my local councillor to attract heritage funding for the caves to tidied and made into an historical attraction. If anybody feels they may be able to make a historical contribution. Please put a comment below.

By Ian Lilliman
On 05/10/2010

Ian, me and my cousin are direct decendants of John Bramwell, last man to live in these caves/rock homes. We have felt passionate about them being restored to how they looked in the late 20th century. Although I don't live in Mansfield, my cousin does, and I know she would love to help in some way. We have many old photos of the rock houses. What kind of contribution are you looking for?

By Angela Roche
On 06/10/2010

I am the cousin to Angela and yes I would love to get involved with any thing that would get the caves that are left back to some thing like what they should look like before they get to bad to put right!!

By Pam Kitchen
On 11/10/2010

Hi all, just to let you know that we are in the early stages of discussions as to what can (and can't) be done with the caves. Obviously, some of the caves now exist on private land and so access will be an issue. When I find out more information, I'll post it on this site. Please be patient as these things can take a very long time.

By Ian Lilliman
On 12/10/2010

Thanks to everyone who is commenting on this page. There is some very interesting information. We are however getting some that include email addresses. It is the site's policy that the email addresses of contributors are not included, so these comments have not been published. The site was established to be a means of sharing historical information about the area. The Editors are not able to collect information on behalf of individuals or get involved in campaigns.

By Site Editors
On 19/10/2010

Just to tell all that are Bramwell decendants that the cave of John Bramwell of the Rock Houses still exists .

By Pam Kitchen
On 01/11/2010

John Bramwell was also my Grt Grt Grt Grandfather I am a decendent from Lydia Bramwell she married a William Lamb. It is so exciting to think that our cave house will be brought back one day for us to see I have visited the cave house. Thank you Darren I would love to meet you one day if ever you can find time.

By Joy Smith
On 24/11/2010

Just to let you all know, I might be talking on Mansfield 103.2 some time about the caves, live from John Bramwell's cave.

By Pam Kitchen
On 30/11/2010

Hello Angela & Pam Remember me from Genes Reunited, I have just found this site. John Bramwell is the Gt Grandfather of Alfred Bramwell the husband of Nelly Ball my 1st cousin once removed. Regarding the rockhill caves I remember my father taking me to the Mansfield Museum where there was a model of the caves. I have no idea if that is still on show. I should have more time next year to continue my search into my ancestors.

By Gordon Ball
On 03/01/2011

Did the houses have a number? I Believe my Grt Grandparents lived there and that my Nanna Annie Eaves was born there in 1901. The address on her birth certificate says 133 Ratcliffe Gate but cannot find anything to say were the dwelling where my Nanna told my Mum and her other children that she had lived in the Rockhouses can anyone help me or point me in the right direction of anyone who can thank you.

By janice matthewman
On 21/01/2011

Recently the Council have cut back a lot of vegetation that obscured the dwellings and they can been better now. I live nearby and took photographs which I've posted on my flick'r site here-

By Janet Scott
On 24/01/2011

Janice, I don't think that your ancestors actually lived in the rock houses. My Gt Grandfather, John Bramwell, was the last to live in them, and he died in 1900. I followed your family of Eaves, Annie and her parents, Joseph and Ann, between 1861 to 1901, and they lived in Greenwood's Yard, Sherwood Court and Walkers Yard, all leading from Ratcliffe Gate. These yards were close to where the Brown Cow is now, so further down from the Rock Houses. I hope you find this helpful.

By angela roche
On 25/01/2011

Does anyone know the names of John Bramwell's children? I find this article fascinating and would love to find out if I am related. I do have a g-g-g-grandfather John Bramwell, but he was born a different year in Yorkshire.

By Angie Bramwell Wycherly
On 01/02/2011

I am a decenant and would like to know anybody else who is.

By david bramwell
On 17/02/2011

Thankyou so much, I have just today looked at the website and received your very kind message, could you please tell me who is regarded as Joseph's family? ie his parents ;his children , he had a daughter called phoebe (we believe that she died young but have found it impossible to get any information on the family if you could point me in the right direction I would be very grateful it was very kind of you and very much appreciated thankyou so much

Janice Matthewman

By janice matthewman
On 18/02/2011

Janice, the information that I have; Joseph Eaves b.1863 at Mansfield, d. 1903 at Mansfield. His Father was Thomas Eaves, b. 1819 at Mansfield, d. 1886 at Mansfield. Mother of Joseph was Ann b. 1828 at South Sheilds, Durham, d. 1905 at Mansfield. I don't have proof of all the children born to Joseph and Ann, but in the 1901 census they had Edith (b.1892) and Wilfred (b.1894, d.1903). I have found birth & death records for the following Eave children; Beatrice b.1889 d.1890; Annie b.1893 d.1893; Harold b. 1897 d. 1897; Ethel b.1898 d.1898; Martha b.1903 d.1904. I haven't found a Phoebe Eaves.

By Angela Roche
On 22/02/2011

David Bramwell (commented 17/02/11), I am a direct decendant of John Bramwell, but there is a whole bunch of us in and around Mansfield, so it would take forever to name them all here. Who were your Grandparents?

By Angela Roche
On 24/02/2011

My g.g.grandfather farmed 25 acres on Rock Hill for 30 years, he died in 1888. My mother recalls his daughter, her grandmother telling her about delivering milk to the rock houses. The Bramwell's ten children were probably raised on the milk from my g.g.grandfather, John Burwood's cows!

By Darrell Jones
On 06/12/2011

Thank you Darrell for that interesting information. The Bramwell's are my ancestors. I find any story relating to life around the Rock Houses in the 1800's extremely interesting. My gt gt Grandfather's rock home still exists.

By Angela Roche
On 08/12/2011

Hi, John Bramwell was also my Gt Gt Grandfather, my Gt grandfather was also John Bramwell and my grandmother was Grace Bramwell.

By Wendy Moakes
On 20/01/2012

Wendy, I feel you are missing one generation in your Bramwell line. I know Grace's father was John, but John's father was William, and then come's John Bramwell 1815-1900. So John in the rock houses may be your 3 x gt grandfather. Was your grandfather Berrisford or Needham?

By Angela Roche
On 23/01/2012

About 30years ago my aunt and uncle lived next door to an old lady on Little Carter Lane. Her surname was Chamberlain. She told me once that her parents used to live on Rock HIll and her father made besom brooms. I cannot remember whether she said they lived in the rock houses or Rock Mill She showed me a photo of the father sat outside their house with some brooms. I later saw this photo in a book of old photos by the Old Mansfield Society

By Alan Taylor
On 24/01/2012

That's correct, the Chamberlains lived at the top of Rock Hill, opposite side to the rock houses. Tom Chamberlain was the last of the besom makers. There was a row of three cottages, and the Chamberlain family lived in the first cottage. They had been besom makers for over 150 years. Chamberlains also married into my Bramwell family. There was a William Bramwell who married Sarah Chamberlain in 1846, both families lived on Rock Hill. And again a marriage in 1871 of Edward Bramwell to Betsy Chamberlain. And a third marriage of John Bramwell to Elizabeth Chamberlain in 1901. They were all from the same two families, a bit of 'neighbourly love' comes to mind!

By Angela Roche
On 25/01/2012

I have lived on Rock Hill for 37 years and remember playing in those secret caves at Redcroft too, not many folk knew they were there, but as a little adventurous lad it was like a secret garden that time had forgot. I guess my friends and I were trespassing really, but we never knew the caves belonged to any one. We just played in them and the garden and did no harm at all. I also used to deliver newspapers as a lad for Chamberlain News, the little newspaper shop that is to left side of the Brown Cow on Ratcliffe gate. 

By Simon Leivers
On 07/03/2012

Simon thats a really lovely story. I can quite imagine what it was like to play in those caves and gardens. The rock house that my 2 x gt gradfather, John Bramwell, lived in, I have visited in the past couple of years, not knowing that it still existed. The tranquility in that secret garden you mention is still evident, and the sounds of traffic on Rock Hill seems to just disappear and you can quite easily be transported back in time. As for the Chamberlain sisters at the newsagents, then yes they would be related to the Chamberlains who were besom makers back in the 1800's and earlier. You have painted a lovely picture of their lives in the old shop. And I thank you for sharing your memories.

By Angela Roche
On 07/03/2012

As this page was now encouraging comments on the Chamberlain Newsagents family we took the decision to start a separate page on them. SEE Chamberlains Newsagents

By Editors
On 15/03/2012

Did any of John Bramwell's descendants move to Liverpool? My great great grandmother was Louisa Charlotte Bramwell (1868-1958) and the names Ethel,John,George do tend to crop up a lot through the generations.

By Robert Francis
On 22/11/2012

Sorry Robert, but John Bramwell's decendants didn't move that far away from Mansfield. One of his daughter's did move to Lancashire, but that wasn't until the 1880's. I have researched my Mansfield Bramwell's and I dont believe there is a connection with the Liverpool Bramwell's.

By Angela Roche
On 22/11/2012

I'm not a descendent but I grew up on Mill St. and only moved out recently, now I live on Windsor Road. As kids me and friends had so much fun playing around the Rock Houses- they were our 'Den'. At the bottom of Mill Street there is a footpath that leads to Rock Hill and at the end if you turned left through a grassy patch (where a horse lived and past someones home - we may have been walking through their garden) you could enter the gardens a previous person has mentioned. Although we did not enter some of the openings - very over grown and a little scary, they were fascinating and I've enjoyed reading everyones stories about their families and memories. It would be great if these houses could be restored as there's so much history. My grandma gave me a book on Mansfield History years ago and they were mentioned in there. A previous poster mentioned a man called Jack living on Mill St. and I remember him. He was very old when I was around 5, my mum knew him as he always used to sit outside his front door on a stool and chat to neightbours and people passing! My mum would watch me ride my bike only as far as his house and I would say hello and he'd give me a sweet. Loved reading this, thanks!

By Claire
On 13/02/2013

John Bramwell is my great great great grandfather. My mother has a picture of him standing outside his cave. Her mother is Dorothy Bramwell who married to become a Chapman. I am interested in finding other members of my family especially for my mother.

By david chant
On 15/10/2013

Hi David, Dorothy is my 3rd cousin, and we have been in correspondence for a few years. There is a lot of the Bramwell descendants in and around Mansfield, as well as further afield. If you're on facebook I have a group on there dedicated to the Bramwell tree, just look up 'John Bramwell's descendants'. Look forward to hearing from you.

By Angela Roche
On 16/10/2013

I was born on 1953 and so the rock houses were by then part of the local history I was brought up on. Jack Featherstone was my fathers brother. He talked about the houses and the folk that lived in them often. Uncle Jack lived on Mill Street all his life and loved a pint in The Reindeer. I grew up on Little Carter Lane next door but one to Miss Chamberlain who has also been mentioned on this page. Now living in Manchester I have only recently found this site about Mansfield and have spent many hours down 'memory lane'. Thanks

By Diane Marsh nee Featherstone
On 15/03/2014

I am a descendent of John Bramwell, my father Raymond William Issac Bramwell lived in Mansfield with most of our other relatIves until 1978 when we migrated to Sydney Australia. My children Laura and Shane Bramwell will be in England next year for a trip, it would be great if they could see their heritage and catch up with all their relatives! Apparently there was a lieutenant Bramwell who jumped out of a rowing boat in port botany and pulled it ashore so captain Cook would not get his feet wet in 1770? Related? Possibly. If so I want land rights to Sydney Harbour lol. My father has very old photo of rock house and a very old Bible that was passed down through the family. He has also researched the family tree. Hello to all my relatives from down under:))

By Roger Bramwell
On 29/07/2014

Hello Roger, we are 3rd cousin's 1 x removed. I recently met some of your cousins, Jeffrey and Christine in Mansfield when we visited the grave of John and Sarah Bramwell. Next year, May 2015, it will be the 200th Anniversary of John Bramwell's birthday, and we are arranging a Bramwell gathering to celebrate. It would be nice if it coincided with your visit. I have sent you a friend request on Facebook by the way, and you will find I have a group dedicated to the decedents of John Bramwell.  

By Angela Roche
On 29/07/2014

Angela Roche, do you remember me and John Glenn from school?

By peter shore
On 01/06/2015

Hi Peter, your name rings a bell, but can't picture you. And yes I remember Johnny Glen, who sadly died very young. Are you on facebook? I have a few groups that relate to family history and old Mansfield. Look up 'Old Rock houses of Mansfield' and you'll find me.

By Angela Bramwell
On 02/06/2015

Hi everyone Jonh Bramwell was my gr gr gr grandad, my mum Margaret Bramwell is the daughter of David Bramwell son of Charlotte, loving the comments, very interesting to learn about my past & the lovely stories about my grandfather, in the rock houses. 

By Alison Moult
On 16/12/2017

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