Advantages Free entry
Disadvantages Limited opening hours
|Is it worth visiting?|
About 10 years ago I used to live in 17th century cottage about a mile from the Revolution House at Old Whittington on the outskirts of Chesterfield in North East Derbyshire. Yet despite passing by this place almost every day I'm ashamed to say that I only visited this building for the very first time fairly recently.Revolution House dates from the 16th Century and is several decades older than my old cottage. It is of national importance due to the events that took place here in 1688, which is why the building was purchased by Chesterfield Borough Council on the 300th anniversary of those events in 1988 and turned into the museum that we find today.
Back in the 16th and 17th century the building was a farmhouse. It began serving ale to passing trade and due to its prominent location on the junction of the main old routes to Chesterfield and Sheffield it quickly became quite prosperous. By 1688 it had established itself as a popular wayside inn known as the Cock & Pynot (Pynot is the local Derbyshire word for the Magpie bird).It was here that the plot to overthrow the Catholic King James II and replace him with the Protestant King William was hatched. The local Reverend carefully documented the events of this secret meeting between three of the most influential local men of that period. Those men were William Cavendish, (the 4th Earl of Devonshire), Lord Delamere and John D’Arcy (Earl of Danby). The successful outcome of the plot was rewarded by the new King William by granting William Cavendish a Dukedom and he become the 1st Duke of Devonshire. This new title and the extra wealth associated with it enabled him to transform the family home at nearby Chatsworth into the stately home it now is. So maybe the moral of this story is that treason does pay!
The house is quite well sign posted so its relatively easy to find and its possible to park for free on the road outside but it does have quite limited opening times. I visited about midday on a Sunday morning (it opened at 11am) and was greeted by a friendly chap who informed me that I was his first visitor of the day. As an introduction to the house we were asked if we wanted to watch a short video and we accepted. I'd recommend this as it gives a good insight into the events leading up to the "Revolution". The DVD lasts about 10 minutes and is shown on a TV in a small room next door to the main building.After the video finished we headed back to the house and then began our one to one guide. We were told that everything inside the house was authentic and from the late 17th century period although it wasn't necessarily from this actual house. In fact when the council acquired the house its last resident was an old lady who had burned most of the furniture on the open fire.
The present building is much smaller than it originally was and the little room next door where we had watched the DVD was actually where the plotters met. The guy that told us all about the house also worked at Chesterfield's main museum a couple of days a week (when this place is shut). He was both very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I asked lots of questions and he answered them all. For example I learned that there was a connection between the current Cock & Magpie pub nearby. It was built by a member of the same family that lived here in the late 18th century.The lower part of Revolution House pretty much resembles an old house. There are pots and pans in the kitchen and pewter ale mugs on the tables but the upstairs rooms have less furnishings and instead feature visual displays on boards.
I'd expected my visit to quite brief but in fact we stayed for over an hour and by the time we left about a dozen other people had arrived and the chap was excitedly telling them the same stories that he'd recited to us. Unlike most museums we were actually encouraged to touch anything we wanted and were passed lots of objects to touch and try to guess what they were. I was also told to take as many photos as I liked.There is only one item of furniture within the house that is not authentic and this is the "Plotter's Chair". The original chair disappeared during the 19th century but was found in a local pub down the road about 80 years ago. The Duke of Devonshire purchased this chair and when the museum was opened the council asked the current Duke if they could display it here but he declined. By then the chair had been moved to Hardwick Hall, where it had become quite a popular attraction. Instead the Duke had his carpenters make a replica of the chair, which is the one that is here.
The Revolution House can be found on the B6052, a minor road that runs between Eckington and Chesterfield. Admission is completely free but it only opens during the summer months between Easter and the end of September and during this period it only opens on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11am until 4pm.
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