A quite fascinating example of endurance against the odds, Little Wyrley Hall may be a minor house but it’s also a minor miracle. A miner miracle, you might say. To quickly appreciate how a combination of geology and genealogy has somehow repelled “predatory surroundings”, just take a look at the map:
“The manor of Little Wyrley, with a considerable estate in land and coalmines therein, has been held by this family many years,” understated Burke’s Landed Gentry in 1952. Those ‘many years’ now total well over 400, having been acquired by the Fowkes during the reign of Elizabeth I, thence by descent to the present-day Wallaces. This despite significant reliance on the female line (hence Fowke→Hussey→MacPherson→Wallace) and an increasingly threatening topographical context.
Country Life didn’t beat about the bush when they visited in 1952: “The prospect westwards from the front door is terminated in the middle distance by a monumental slag-heap“. Ouch. Couldn’t they have just looked the other way? Oh, they did: “Colliery workings have [also] encroached to within a few hundred feet of the east side of the house“. Aerial images show the latter to be extant but also much apparent amelioration:
And, of course, Country Life had gone there for a reason as ‘Little Wyrley Hall is a house of considerable interest…a Tudor, Carolean and William-and-Mary nucleus‘ whose facade remains an finial-festooned delight:
Complimenting a satisfying architectural evolution are internal furnishings of similar integrity and interest. Pevsner was particularly excited by the finely wrought C17th metal door fittings – “more ornate than one may ever see again” – and amply illustrated in that Country Life two-parter¹ alongside heraldic glass and portraits memorialising the generations that created this place.
‘When a house has been in the possession of one family for generations, built piecemeal and filled with the accumulated possessions of centuries, it achieves a degree of liveableness – and Little Wyrley Hall is as good an example as any.‘¹
The in-every-sense epic saga of Wentworth Woodhouse, where coalworks too lapped at the garden steps, has recently been told. Elsewhere, the denizens of a place like Shuckburgh have looked out on a landscape little altered in a millenium. Yes, there are grander houses and longer, more illustrious lineages but the survival of this 1,000-acre fastness in its pressured circumstance is, in this blog’s mind, as noteworthy as any. Little Wyrley² has held out, whichever way the wind has blown…
¹ Country Life 22/29 Feb 1952
² It rhymes with ‘curly’