Renishaw Hall: The Story of the Sitwells by Desmond Seward - review by James Stourton

James Stourton

Italy in Derbyshire

Renishaw Hall: The Story of the Sitwells


Elliott & Thompson 273pp £25 order from our bookshop

Desmond Seward has written a revisionist history of those birds of brilliant plumage the Sitwells. It realigns the wicked father of the story, Sir George, as the hero. Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell – the famous trio of siblings – could be generous, but they could also be spiteful, and they traduced nobody more than their own father, who, Seward demonstrates, educated them in so many of the baroque tastes they went on to champion. Seward has cloaked this reassessment of the family within a history of their celebrated Derbyshire home, Renishaw Hall. Rambling, gaunt – half playful Gothick, half brooding Thornfield Hall – Renishaw is a squire’s house like no other. Siegfried Sassoon characterised it as ‘blighted skies and blasted trees and blackened landscapes’ – the house was indeed surrounded by coal mines – but there was another aspect. Many English houses have embraced Italy, but none in quite

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