Eyam Hall, Derbyshire

The Wright family, who have owned Eyam Hall for eleven generations, are back in charge 5 years after the National Trust took the house into care. The Country Houses Foundation has provided an emergency fund to repair a chimney which threatened the important Tapestry Room.


If you have heard of Eyam at all, you will probably be thinking about the plague. The village of Eyam is celebrated for the extraordinarily brave actions of the villagers when in 1665 they cut themselves off from the world to contain the spread of bubonic plague. In all 260 villagers died over 14 months, about half of the population. The plague had spread from London and the vicar, Rev William Mompesson, persuaded the villagers to maintain isolation so that the infection did not pass to other villages. It must have been a boost to local morale when, just 6 years later in 1672, Thomas Wright started work on a fine new manor house. He brought in the builders only a decade after the Restoration of the monarchy but the house is designed in a style which recalls the Jacobean era that came before the Civil War. Derbyshire was clearly a conservative place.


Thomas Wright intended the new house as a wedding present for his second son, John and his wife Elizabeth - their descendants preserved the house much as they would have known it.  One of the finest interiors is the Tapestry Room with walls completely covered in 15th century Flemish tapestries.  For a small country manor, this is a very grand room indeed. The house contains a Stuart chest which may have been Elizabeth’s dowry chest and the hangings on the bed are embroidered with crewel work which, tradition has it, were worked by Elizabeth as part of her dowry.  You meet the couple in a double portrait in the entrance hall while the gardens retain the style of their 17th century planting. Perhaps you can capture a little of the optimism of the young couple who established their family in the new house so shortly after the tragedy of the plague.  Now visitors enjoy a busy craft centre and buttery as well as the house and gardens.


The provision of emergency funds to repair the chimney is a good example of the Country Houses Foundation’s ability to release grant aid quickly to the point of need.  It would be a national tragedy if the charming Tapestry Room had been lost or damaged.