The History and Antiquities of Eyam

By William Wood (1842)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2012


The Manor of Eyam is not very extensive: it is about the same as the parish. It cannot be correctly ascertained to whom it belonged previously to the Norman conquest; but most probably to Elsi, a powerful and wealthy Saxon nobleman. After the battle of Hastings it was given, along with seven other Derbyshire Manors, and those of Sheffield, Worksop, and a many others, to Roger de Busli, a trusty officer to William the Conqueror. Much of the property of De Busli, was held by his man Roger, as feudal tenant, who was succeeded, in the reign of Henry the First, by William de Lovetot. Matilda, the great granddaughter of this William de Lovetot, and sole heiress of the Lovetots, married, in the reign of Richard the First, Gerard de Furnival: and we find that Thomas, the son of Matilda and Gerard de Furnival, in enumerating his manors, at the instance of the Statute Quo Warranto, in the reign of Edward the First, mentions himself as possessing Eyam. Joan, the heiress of the Furnivals, was married to Thomas Nevill. The property of the Nevills passed by marriage to the Talbots, who became on that account Barons of Furnival, afterwards Earls of Shrewsbury. On the death of George, the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, Eyam became the property of Sir George Saville, who had married Mary, his daughter, - she was sister to the last Earl of Shrewsbury. It remained in the Saville family until the death of William Saville, second Marquis of Halifax, in the year A.D. 1700; who left three daughters, his co-heiresses, amongst whom, after their marriage, the estates of the Savilles were divided, by a partition deed in the sixteenth year of George the Second. Of these three coheiresses, Anne married Charles Lord Bruce, son and heir of Thomas, Earl of Ailesbury; Dorothy married Richard, Earl of Burlington; and Mary married Sackville, Earl of Thanet. It is generally supposed, that it was in consequence of the very rich veins of lead ore, discovered at Eyam about the beginning of the eighteenth century, that these noblemen agreed to hold the Manor of Eyam jointly, and to present a Rector to the living (of which they had the gift) by turns.

The joint portion of the Manor belonging to Lord Bruce, became, through marriage, or otherwise, the property of the Duke of Chandos, from whom it passed by marriage to the Duke of Buckingham; the joint portion belonging to the Earl of Burlington, became, through marriage, the property of the Devonshire family; and the other joint portion has remained, up to the present, in the family of the Earl of Thanet. Thus, the Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Buckingham, and the Earl of Thanet are the present Lords of the Manor of Eyam. Besides the manorial rights, and the gift of the living, the Lords of the Manor have little or no property in Eyam - most of the land and other property having been sold by Sir George Saville two centuries ago.

It may be well to notice in this place a few popular errors connected with the Manor of Eyam, which have crept into works of otherwise very high merit. Rhodes states, through misinformation, that the Eyam estate descended from King John, to a family of the name of Stafford, on whom it was bestowed in consideration of certain military services, and on the express condition, "that a lamp should be kept perpetually burning before the altar of St. Helen, in the parish church of Eyam". That the Staffords of Eyam, an exceedingly ancient and wealthy family, held a great portion of the land at Eyam on the tenure mentioned, is probably correct; but that it emanated from the munificence of King John, is an undoubted mistake. King John, when Earl of Montaine, had all the confiscated estates of the Peverils granted to him by his brother, Richard the First; but Eyam, and other places in Derbyshire, never formed a part of the princely possessions of the Peverils; although Camden mentions the whole of the county of Derby as belonging to that family. The document containing the specification of the grant of lands at Eyam to the Staffords, is said to have been found at the Highlow Hall, near Eyam, a many years since; but in whose hands it now lies, is not publicly known. A person, however, who saw the document at the time of its removal from the Highlow, states, that the grant was made, not by King John, but by some Roger: probably Roger, the feudal tenant of De Busli, or Roger De Busli himself. It is conjectured by some, notwithstanding the probable genuineness of the document in question, that the Staffords inherited their extensive property at Eyam, by a marriage with the Furnivals: this is countenanced by the arms of the Furnivals being, a bend between six martlets; and the Staffords, a chevron between three martlets. The Staffords were a very wealthy family, but never, as is stated in the Peak Scenery, Lords of the Manor of Eyam.

In the reign of Richard the Second, one of the Staffords of Eyam was, for some political offence, seized in his house at Eyam, and carried away to some place of security, where he remained a close prisoner, until he was ransomed by his relatives and friends. Amongst the conservators of the peace in the county of Derby, made in the twelfth year of the reign of Henry the Sixth. A.D. 1433, we find the names of the following persons:- "John Stafford de Eyham, Richard Colyn de Eyham".[1] In the work referred to above, it is stated that a new mansion was erecting for the last of the Staffords who resided at Eyam, at the time of the plague, when the family left the place never to return. This is, however, a great mistake: for Humphrey, the last male of this branch of the Staffords, died at Eyam nearly a century before the plague. Of this family, their property, descendants, and habitation, more will be said subsequently. The remaining particulars of the Manor, with a few other circumstances connected with Eyam, up to the middle of the seventeenth century, will be found under different heads, after the following details of the terrible plague.

[1] This Commission was appointed to tender an oath to the Gentry, for the better observance of the peace both in themselves and retainers. - Vide Glover's History of Derbyshire, vol. 1.

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This information was collated and transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in September 2012.

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