Book review: Renishaw Hall, the story of the Sitwells

seward sitwells

I was riveted by this very well-told account of the house and family. The first Sitwells were ironmasters, down to earth people rooted in the local coal and iron from which the wealth came to build Renishaw Hall. The house came to be greatly loved by its family:  neo-classical improvements were made to the original Stuart manor house in 1795 by Sitwell Sitwell (his odd name is due to his being christened Sitwell Hurt, and adopting the surname Sitwell when he inherited; Evelyn Waugh commented that it could have been worse: Hurt Hurt). In the early 20th century Sir George Sitwell’s love of Italy led him to design the famous Italianate gardens. The house is also apparently chockful of ghosts…

But Renishaw soon became more famous for Sir George’s trio of exotic, artistic children: Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell. If you enjoy poetry, try Edith’s strange rich imagery. Osbert is worth reading for the fascinating insights into the history of the house and family, but Sacheverell’s highly coloured style is an acquired taste; he wrote mainly as an art historian. The flamboyant three are out of fashion nowadays, but who knows;  some Downton Abbey style epic may feature them one day?

To borrow this book, see the Derbyshire Libraries catalogue at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/search_the_catalogue/default.asp

Chesterfield Local Studies Library has a good Sitwell collection for reference, and there are also reference copies of most of their works at Derbyshire Record Office Local Studies. Original documents concerning the family, especially their land and coal interests, are in the Record Office: see http://calmview.derbyshire.gov.uk/CalmView/Overview.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog

 

 

 

 

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