The Eyres of Derbyshire - the death of a dynasty ....

The Eyres of Derbyshire were a family who had everything - wealth, power, influence, and also money !

They lost everything in due course - mainly through persecution because of their religion. The Eyres were Catholics - and whereas many other landowning families seemed to "conform" the Eyres steadfastly stood by their religious beliefs - whatever the cost.

The family had arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066, and they were rewarded with land in the Hope Valley. Their rise was rapid - but with the reformation (and with it the demand that people conform to the new Church of England) their decline commenced. As Catholics (often refered to as recusants) they were barred from holding any kind of office, and gradually they lost many of their lands and titles.

Video shows Hope Valley area - North Lees Hall, nr Hathersage - one of the many Eyres homes - is shown in video

The family (according to tradition) came over from Normandy with William in 1066, and were called Truelove. The legend says that William was injured (his nose-plate was crushing his face) and that Truelove came to his rescue and released the helmet. William then said "thou hast given me the air that I breathe - henceforth you will be know as Air (Eyr)".

There are only 2 problems with this story - (1) the Norman soldiers did not wear helmets of this type, and (2) Truelove was an Anglo-Saxon name - not a Norman one !!!!

The couple met secretly at Stoney Middleton, a quite place in the Hope Valley, where later in their marriage Joanna(de Padley) built a chapel to commemorate the safe return of Robert from the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 (the original 15C church bell still mentions this). They were married around 1421.

The couple also largely re-built Hathersage Church (below) and their magnificent brasses can still be seen in the nave.

(This Truelove was later injured in the Battle himself - losing a leg - and from then on the coat of arms of the Eyres featured a single leg). The Eyre family motto is "Sola Virtus Invicta" - Bravery alone is Invincible.

Whatever the truth the family were certainly rewarded not long after the Battle of Hastings with lands in the Peak District, centred on the village of Hope.

This part of the Peak was a Royal Forest (given by William to his illegitimate son William Peveril) and was largely reserved as a Royal hunting forest. William Peveril built Peveril Castle at Castleton (Castle Town), and the Eyres were "foresters of fee" looking after the area for their master.

William le Heyr (Derbyshire) who died in 1299 held an appointment of "Hereditary Forester of the Peak", in 1250. This was a royal appointment and for this service he was allowed a bovate of land at Hope. Robert, William's son continued in the position on his father's death. This is the earliest record of the Eyre family in Derbyshire. It appears highly likely that William le Eyr is the ancestor of most Derbyshire EYRE families.

Robert Eyre (bap.1392), the third son of Sir Nicholas Eyre and his wife Joana Barlow, at Hope Derbyshire. His brothers were, Nicholas Eyre the eldest who settled in Maltby, Yorkshire and William Eyre the second son who settled in North Lees, Derbyshire (pictured below).

Over the next few hundred years the family established based right across the county and beyond - setting-up each son to launch a new "branch" of the family.

William Eyre bap.1390 founded the North Lees branch of the family. William was the 3rd son of Sir Nicholas Eyre (c1370).

In the fourteenth century the manor of Highlow Hall passed by marriage into the Eyre family when Nicholas already heir to the manorial holdings of Hope, married the younger of the two Archer sisters. (He is alleged to have dated both Archers sisters, and neither knew he was seeing the other ! When he was found out, he chose the younger sister, and the eldest is said to have disappeared).

Highlow Hall - often said today to be the most haunted house in Derbyshire - is pictured below. Nicholas' eldest son, another Robert, built a hall for each of his seven sons - the Halls of Moorseats, Shatton, Nether Shatton, Hazelford, Offerton, Crook Hill and Northlees - all within eyeseight of Highlow Hall - the family had a signalling system to alert the others when their presence was needed.

Over the next century, the family increased their influence by acting as overseers - looking after land locally on behalf of gentry families based elsewhere. They also acquired lands whenever they could for themselves and their children (for example they bought the Manors of Calver, Bubnell and Baslow for £4300 and paid off the mortgage within 2 years)..

They were particularly adept at marrying-off their sons to wealthy daughters (especially if those daughters were the heiresses to vast estates which would then come under the Eyre influence).

For example, Robert Eyre married Joanna de Padley (*) - daughter and sole heiress of Padley - and so the Padley estates (nr Hathersage, Derbyshire) came into the family. (Padley Chapel, all that remains of Padley Hall, is pictured below).

Roger Eyre (bap 1428), the fourth son of Robert Eyre and his wife Joanna de Padley, married Elizabeth Whittington heiress of the Whittington estates. (He is buried in Whittington Church - and a stained glass window commemorates his life)

Roger Eyre settled at Holme Hall, Chesterfield (not to be confused with Holme Hall in Bakewell which was also acquired by the Eyres through marriage with the daughter of Bernard Wells) about 1450, as leasee, probably, under the priory of Lenton.

Anthony Eyre (bap. 1508) a great grandson of Roger Eyre of Holme Hall, married Elizabeth Pole of Radborn, Derbyshire. They had taken residence at Kiverton and Laughton in Yorkshire. Anthony and his first son Gervase Eyre (bap.1545) purchased the property of Newbold.

(The great manor of Newbold, described in the Domesday survey as having six berwicks, of which Chesterfield was one, was parcel of the ancient demesne of the crown. It afterwards belonged to the abbot and convent of Welbeck. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, it was parcel of the possessions of Beauchief Abbey, and it appears to have been granted to Sir William West whose son John West sold it in 1570 to Anthony and Gervase Eyre).

Thomas Eyre (bap 1518 died 1595) - a great grandson of Roger Eyre - lived at Dunston - next to Holme Hall - and raised his family there, until the manor was sold to the Leakes.

By the 16th century, the various branches of the Eyres were Lords of the Manor in over 20 places and controlled huge areas of the North Derbyshire Peak District.

All was going well - very well indeed - until the time of Henry VIII and his break with the Catholic Church. The storm clouds were gathering, and resultant fallout was going to effect every branch of the Eyre family.

(*)The Padley original surname is though to have been Bernake - and they acquired the Padley name when they settled there.

(c) 2005 / 12 Tony Hedley. Contact Me -