“ The Revolution House, in the Derbyshire village of Old Whittington, three miles north of Chesterfield, takes its name from the Revolution of 1688. Three hundred years ago, this cottage was an alehouse, the 'Cock and Pynot' ('Pynot' is a dialect word for magpie), and it was here, as history and tradition relate, that three local noblemen- the Earl of Devonshire (from nearby Chatsworth), the Earl of Danby and Mr. John D'Arcy - met to begin planning their part in events which led to the overthrow of King James II in favour of Willam and Mary of Orange. The ground floor of the cottage has a display of 17th Century country furniture, and upstairs there is a changing programme of exhibition on local themes. „
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.
High Street, Old Whittington,
A couple of years ago I worked at Old Whittington Library for a few months. It is a very small library run by one person and it did get quite lonely, especially at lunchtime. Once you closed up there was no-one to talk to and not much to look at in a very small room - lots of books but not much in the way of conversation. Old Whittington is a small place on the outskirts of Chesterfield, so there isn't too much to do there. There's one decent pub, a few shops, the library and the Revolution House. I'm not that fond of drinking on my own, so consequently I would either have a solitary lunch in the library or pop over to the Revolution House.
~~~WHERE IS IT?
The Revolution House is approximately 3 miles north of Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Old Whittington (where it is located) is on the main bus routes from the town centre - we normally take the 50 (50A at certain times of day), the 25 or the 99 - these are the routes that directly pass by Old Whittington so are the most convenient. If you are driving there directions are as follows:
From the motorway - Exit M1 at junction 29 and take the A617 towards Chesterfield. After about 4 miles you will reach a roundabout, from which you need to take the third exit onto the A61. Keep on this road until the Little Chef (on Whittington Moor) and go onto the B6025 (which is the road to Eckington) and go up the hill until you reach Old Whittington - the Revolution House is next to the Swanwick Memorial Hall (where I was in the library).
The Revolution House doesn't have a car park of its own, but there is some parking available near the Memorial Hall. The pub next door (The Cock and Magpie) has a car park and they don't mind you using it if you call in for a drink or a meal while you are there.
~~~A BIT OF HISTORY.
You are probably wondering what the Revolution House is! A few hundred years ago the building now known as the Revolution House was a pub called the Cock and Pynot (Pynot is a local word for magpie by the way). It was in this pub that three nobles (John D'Arcy, the Earl of Danby and the Earl of Devonshire) met to plot against King James II to put William of Orange on the throne. The name Revolution House comes from this Revolution of 1688.
The present pub, called the more modern version of Cock and Magpie, overlooks its thatched older namesake. There is a plaque on the wall of the house that states "AD 1688. In a room which formally existed at the end of this cottage what is left of the old Cock & Pynot met the Earl of Danby, the Earl of Devonshire and Mr. John D'Arcy eldest son of the Earl of Holderness met sometime in 1688 to concert measures which resulted in the revolution of that year."
~~~ADMISSION & OPENING HOURS.
The Revolution House is free (my very favourite price) to enter and is open from 11am to 4pm, everyday, except Tuesdays from beginning of April to end of September. It is then open for special Christmas hours (again between 11 and 4) between mid-December and the New Year. It's always best to check the hours if making a special journey because the actual dates vary each year - the first date usually coincides with whatever date Good Friday is.
~~~WHAT IS THERE TO SEE AT THE REVOLUTION HOUSE?
As you approach the house from Church Street North you will see facing you a small two-storey stone building with a lovely thatched roof. The building is surrounded by gardens which are encircled by a small wall. You enter the garden via a little gate and then into the house. The ground floor houses a display of seventeenth century furniture that you would typically have found in a rural residence of the period - this is mainly heavy dark wooden chairs, tables, etc, on a slate floor. This is nice to look at but I would recommend going for the Christmas opening period if you want to see something a bit different - the house is beautifully decorated for Christmas and is really worth a look because it really is well done and a lot of work is put into making it look extra pretty!
The upstairs is where the museum side of the Revolution House lives! There is a regularly changing selection of exhibitions, relating to the local area and also to the Revolution of 1688. It is also possible to watch a film show about the Revolution too - this was something we always ended up doing when we visited from school and something that I found interesting as a history fan. I can appreciate that not everyone would find it as interesting as me.
The exhibitions vary in subject matter and thus also vary in terms of interest value. There are also some special event days throughout the year that are also good for children in particular. My tip is to check the current events list on http://www.visitchesterfield.info/dms-derbyshire.asp?dms=13&venue=6022434 to see when there is something that you like. For example this year there is a chance to meet a medieval tile maker on 3rd June and a Christmas carol concert on 31st December.
They also offer educational resources that available for loan on request to schools or adult education groups - these include leaflets and study packs; something that we used to get when I was at school and helped to give us some background information prior to a visit. Lectures and courses for study can also be arranged, as can pre-arranged group visits with a guide if you want to take a group from a school or a club, for example. You will also find a small shop inside to purchase souvenirs and postcards, etc. This is a limited facility due to the size of the building as a whole, so don't expect anything too spectacular!
Further facilities include toilets, disabled toilets and disabled access to all areas that are open to the public - making it pretty good accessibility wise.
The Revolution House is a really nice place to spend a couple of hours. It isn't an all day attraction and isn't all that big, but for anyone interested in history, or just want to see a lovely thatched building with a lot of history, you will enjoy a visit here. Combine it with a trip into Chesterfield to see the museum, the market and Crooked Spire, for example and you can make a day of it too.
Derbyshire, S41 9JZ