Madge House

The site of a girl's school run by Erasmus Darwin's 2 illegitimate daughters. Erasmus was Charles Darwin's Grandfather. The house, which was originally a public house called The Old Nags Head Inn, is named after a well respected local doctor in the 20th Century.

The Miss Parker sisters had a good position in society and were allowed to walk in the grounds of Ashbourne Hall (now the Town Park) at any time.

Erasmus Darwin purchased this building, the Old Nags Head Inn, in 1793 along with an acre of grounds and a pew in St Oswald’s Church for £700 with the intention that it would be used as a ladies seminary by 2 of his daughters, Susanna and Mary Parker. Darwin had long been critical of the conventional education for women, and intended his daughters to put some of his ideas into practice. Darwin described the house as having an ample school room and dining room and 4 smaller parlours on the principal floor, and 2 staircases, one of stone.  The school opened in 1794 and was described as being “able to accommodate 30 pupils without crowding.  The school had closed by 1828 and the building was sold in 1859 after Mary Parker died aged 85.  The Miss Parkers had a good position in society and were allowed to walk in the grounds of Ashbourne Hall (now the Town Park) at any time.

The house is now divided into apartments and is now named after Dr Quintus Madge, a well respected local doctor who had his home and surgery in the building.

The house was built about 1703 and was one of the many public houses in the Town, called The Nags Head Inn. Darwin considered the house to be in an ideal position for a school, on a south facing sandy slope, with hills to the north and the open ground of Brooke Boothby's estate to the east. He paid £550 for the house and a further £100 for an adjoining acre of land. He also purchased a pew in St Oswald’s Church for £50 for the use of his 2 daughters. In later years the house was occupied by Richard Cooper, who was a prominent figure in Cooper’s Corset Factory in Ashbourne. The exterior of the house remains substantial unchanged from its time as a school.

Erasmus Darwin was the grandfather of Charles Darwin. After an education at Cambridge, he lived at Lichfield and later in Derby. He worked as a country doctor.

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Erasmus Darwin believed that young women should be provided with an education which included scientific subjects as well as modern languages.

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