Tissington Hall:  Bittersweet


In May 2007, Tissington Hall in Derbyshire launched Bittersweet: an exhibition looking at its connections with four Jamaican  plantations.

The FitzHerbert family, owners of Tissington Hall since the 17th century, married into the Perrin family, who owned four plantations in Jamaica, producing sugar and coffee from the second half of the 18th century.  On 14th October 1777 William FitzHerbert married Sarah Perrin in London and after Sarah inherited these plantations they were managed from Tissington Hall.

Frances Wilkins, who developed the exhibition gave a fascinating and moving lecture at Tissington to launch the exhibition and the accompanying book.   Frances is a social historian, specialising in 18th Century trade history including the slave trade and smuggling, and is author of many definitive publications on this period.  The exhibition is the result of her extensive research into the FitzHerbert archives which are looked after by Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock. (Contact: 01629 585347; record.office@derbyshire.gov.uk).

Bittersweet describes life on the slave plantations in the West Indies during the second half of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries concentrating on the four Jamaican sugar plantations of Blue Mountain, Forest, Grange Hill and Vere and the coffee plantation of Retrieve Mountain.    The exhibition and book examine in detail the live of the slaves and the overseers, the sugar production process and the connections to plantation owners in England.

Sir Richard FitzHerbert, owner of Tissington Hall said:  “I am deeply indebted to Frances Wilkins for her detailed research into this part of Tissington’s history and to Derbyshire Records Office, who provide an invaluable public service.  I hope that the exhibition will attract new visitors to our Hall and to help understanding of this difficult period in history.”

The exhibition was housed at Tissington during 2007 (visit the website for opening times: www.tissington-hall.com) and then was available on loan  to other houses in Derbyshire and to local schools.

The exhibition coincided with Tissington’s annual Well-Dressing celebrations.  Tissington is known as the mother-place of well-dressing and this annual event on Ascension Day draws large crowds.   Thanks are due to Wendy Greatorex who devised this special 2007 design to commemorate the bicentenary.
Sir Richard FitzHerbert and Frances Wilkins with the Bittersweet book, which accompanies the exhibition. Copies are available from Tissington Hall, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 1RA, tissington.hall@btinternet.com