Although Renishaw Halls has existed since the year 1625, the house truly became the plush Renishaw Hall & Gardens it is today in the year 1800, when it was transformed from an insignificant manor house into a major Georgian mansion. Having been in the possession of the Sitwell family – and today serves as residence of the present heiress, Alexandra Sitwell – since its inception, much of the buildings architectural marvels commissioned by members of the family, while the rich Italianate gardens were landscaped by Sir George Sitwell himself in 1800, which granted the property its distinctive allure. The gardens are arguably the most prominent feature of the whole property and are said to be the best Italian-styled garden in the whole of Britain; boasting a labyrinth of yew hedges, ornate ponds, bold statues, and an extensive selection of exotic plant life.
The Italian grandeur of the gardens is extended to the inside of Renishaw, with European furniture bedecking most of the hallways and rooms that visitors of the house have access to. There are also a number of relics that dedicate the main body of the house, but most of the Renishaw’s gems are found within the Sitwell Museum, which is home to fine art, Dutch tapestries, and fascinating artefacts that illustrate the story of the Sitwell Trio – Osbert, Sacheverell, and Edith – who were the most renowned members of the family, known for their significance in the British arts movement of the early 20th century.
History of Renishaw Hall & Gardens
Renishaw Hall started life in 1625 as a manor house for prosperous ironmaster, George Sitwell (1601 -1667), who built an iron empire upon the grounds in which the current mansion now stands; Sitwell’s company mined and forged iron onsite, exporting his goods all over Britain and overseas. Sitwell died in 1667, and the business was succeeded by his eldest son, who propelled the business even further, and the Sitwell’s became the biggest exporter of iron nails by the end of the 17th century.
The company’s continued prosperity throughout the 18th century allowed for major altercations to Renishaw Hall to occur between 1793 and 1808, commissioned by then-heir, Sir Sitwell Sitwell, 1st Baronet; this period witnessed the building of the Georgian mansion as it appears today, with the construction of both the west and east ranges of the building, which were designed by renowned architects Joseph Badger and Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Sir George Reresby Sitwell designed the luxurious gardens in 1895, after studying garden design in Italy.
George was also father to the three most famous Sitwell’s to grace Renishaw Halls: Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell. The Sitwells, as they came to be known collectively, each became famous for their literary works; producing such a strong body of work – most notably, Osbert’s autobiographical Left Hand, Right Hand – that they were even considered formidable rivals to that of the Bloomsbury Group. Close to the Sitwell’s circle was one DH Lawrence, and it is supposed that Renishaw Hall served as the main inspiration behind his most famous work, the infamous Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
From the addition of the gardens to the present, little altercation has been made to Renishaw, apart from the addition of the vineyard, planted in 1972 by Sir Reresby Sitwell, which was, until 1986, the farthest north vineyard in the world.
Things to see and Do at Renishaw Hall and Gardens
The Hall – The hall can only be explored as part of a guided tour, which, over the course of an hour, covers the ground floor in its entirety. Visitors to Renishaw can marvel at the accumulation of the generations-worth of Sitwell’s eccentric collections that decorate the hallways and rooms; from obscure artworks to Dutch tapestries.
The Garden – The Renishaw Gardens offer a brilliant place to either get lost in the maze of yew hedges, woodlands, and walled flowerbeds, or find a quiet corner to sit and take in the tranquillity of the expansive greenery. The 300-acre garden is divided up into smaller sections, with each divide labelled with an eccentric name, such as ‘the Ballroom’. Unusual plants decorate the gardens throughout and is where you’ll find the biggest collection of yuccas in the country.
The Sitwell Museum – The artefacts and artworks on display elsewhere within Renishaw Hall are, surprisingly, only a small selection of the Sitwell family’s extensive collections; the rest, alongside personal belongings of former Sitwell heirs and heiresses, are on display at the Sitwell Museum, located within the Renishaw Grounds, as part of the Stables Courtyard. Learn the colourful history of the Sitwell family through garments, book collections, and other curiosities.
The Café – Located in Renishaw’s Stables Courtyard, the Café serves tea and coffee, light lunches, homemade cakes, and a selection of local ciders, ales, and other refreshments. The café also boasts outdoor seating and a private function room, the Rex Whistler Room, which features artwork by Whistler himself!
The Vineyard – Tours are available of Renishaw’s onsite vineyard, where visitors can learn all about the winemaking process, with complimentary samples of the Renishaw’s award-winning produce.
How to get to Renishaw Hall & Gardens
Directions – Renishaw Halls is located three miles away from the junction 30 roundabout on the M1 – Renishaw Halls is signposted from this junction onwards.
Address for Satnav – S21 3WB
Public Transport – The 50A bus from Chesterfield will take you to Eckington. From Eckington its only a 15-minute walk along a signposted path.
Parking – The car park can be easily found to the side of the house, 50 metres of the main entrance to the hall, with a charge of £1.
Good to Know
– Due to coronavirus, Renishaw Hall itself and the Sitwell Museum are remaining closed until the end of 2020. The gardens remain open, but, since there is only a limited number of people allowed in at a time, it is advisable that you book a ticket online. The café is also currently in operation with a reduced menu and social distancing measures.
– No picnics are permitted in the garden.
The Gardens – (currently running two timed sessions) 10.30am – 1.00pm & 1.30pm – 4.00pm
The Café – 10:30 – 16:30
Adult Ticket – £8.00
Concession Ticket – £7.00
Children Ticket – £3.50
Family Pass Ticket (2 adults, 3 children) – £18