William Wood of Eyam (1804-1865)

Compiled by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright May 1999.

William Wood the historian was born on December 6th 1804, at Lydgate House, and according to the IGI, baptised on 6th January following (1805). His parents were William WOOD and Jane FRANCIS (apparently married at Eyam on 8th February 1796).

William as a scholar was largely self-taught. It is said he studied with his books attached to the loom, at which he worked as a silk weaver. Clarrie Daniel's book “The Story of Eyam Plague, with a Guide to the Village” (1985) says:-

“Wood's father was a lead-miner, owning the cottage in which he lived and renting a couple of fields... William was the second of his family of four sons and three daughters... His only source of education was that provided by the Sunday School... To improve his knowledge he walked several miles to borrow books.

His first literary venture, ‘Genius of the Peak and other Poems’ appeared in 1837. Five years later, in 1842, his most popular work, The History and Antiquities of Eyam, was published by subscription. A second edition was printed in 1848, and this was enlarged in 1860. Two years later his collection of legends and stories, Tales and Traditions of the High Peak was published. Wood died on June 27th, 1865, and was buried near the Church where a small headstone bearing his initials and date of death identifies his grave. A short distance away a large monument was erected by subscription, and is often mistaken for his actual grave.”

The monument occupies a prominent place in the churchyard to the rear of the church, being instantly recognisable:-

In Memory of
William WOOD
who died June 27. 1865
Aged 60 Years.
Author of the
History and Antiquities of Eyam.
Tales and Traditions of the Peak &c.

Wood's History and Antiquities of Eyam has being transcribed by Andrew McCann, from a copy of the book which has been in his family for over 100 years. William was married to Sarah PURSGLOVE, Andrew's great-great-grandmother Jane Pursglove's sister. Perhaps also of interest is the account of Bishop Robert Pursglove of Tideswell on this site, and Andrew's photograph of Bishop Pursglove's Memorial Brass in Tideswell Church, the Bishop being possibly one of Jane's ancestral relatives.

Further biographical details are available in Wood's third book Tales and Traditions of the High Peak, in its introduction by Peter Furniss entitled ‘Memoir of the Late William Wood of Eyam’:-

[Transcriptions of the above 2 books will be back online shortly]

“Mr. Wood informs us that his family is not one of high antiquity at Eyam. When the Hon. and Rev. Edward Finch, D.D., was presented to the Rectory of Eyam in 1717, Wood's great-great-grandfather, then a young man, came with him from Wigan, in the capacity of a servant: he afterwards married, had a family, and kept a public-house at the churchyard side, and died at Eyam. The father of William Wood was a lead miner of the olden stamp. He owned the cottage in which he resided, rented a small field or two, and kept his cow. He was also a musician in the village choir and for several years conducted the Sunday School in connection with the Established Church.”

Information prepared by Rosemary Lockie in May 1999.

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URL of this page: http://places.wishful-thinking.org.uk/DBY/Eyam/WmWood1804.html
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