Where to find HumanKind at Calke Abbey

HumanKind at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

For more than thirty years, the story of Calke Abbey has revolved around ideas of an isolated and solitary family – but new research undertaken in 2019 has revealed a different side to Calke’s story. This year, we’ll be sharing new stories of kindness and compassion, past and present, building on the legacy of HumanKind: an ongoing project that delves deeper into Calke’s history of isolation, and seeks to challenge the stigma around loneliness.

Pause for reflection inside the house

Calke’s story has long been centred around the ‘reclusive’ Harpur-Crewe family, who were thought of as eccentric and disconnected from society. Our research with the University of Leicester has revealed new perspectives of this ‘isolated’ family – moments of deep connection, kindness, and compassion.

Throughout the house, you’ll discover moments in the live of four characters from Calke’s household – from the famously ‘isolated’ baronet himself, to the last member of the Harpur-Crewe family who suffered a life-changing injury. You can read more about each person we’re featuring the exhibition below, along with two additional stories.

In the Library, read about how Henry Harpur became known as ‘The Isolated Baronet’, and discover the more complex character that emerged during our research. Henry created the Library at Calke, and his love of books shows his varied and intellectual interests. 

Discover a different side to the 'Isolated Baronet' in the library
HumanKind at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire
Discover a different side to the 'Isolated Baronet' in the library

In the North Corridor, we’re exploring the happy but short-lived marriage of Winnie Harpur-Crewe, an avid traveller who wrote many letters home, in which we see Winnie’s love for her husband Albert – and her despair after his death.

The Museum Room tells the story of George Crewe, the 8th Baronet, drawing upon entries written in his own diaries to examine the life of a man who held such responsibility and suffered with anxiety. George’s diaries also demonstrate the support he received from his loving wife, Jane, and the solace he found in religion.

Airmyne Jenney was the grand-daughter of Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe and the last member of the Harpur-Crewe family. A lover of animals, Airmyne lost the ability to speak after being kicked in the head by a horse. In the Butler’s pantry, we’re displaying some of Airmyne’s books, which demonstrate her struggle to learn to speak, write and communicate again. In the background, her favourite song “Que Sera, Sera” can be heard playing.

Inspiring small acts of kindness

HumanKind is not only an opportunity to delve deeper into Calke’s history of isolation, but it’s also an opportunity to start conversations about modern-day loneliness.

There are two Pledge Walls at Calke Abbey, where you’ll find inspiration for small acts of kindness – from phoning a friend, to donating to your local dog shelter. This year, the Pledge Walls are also going digital so you can browse the pledges at your leisure, just click the link below to find the virtual pledge wall.

Been inspired to do a good deed? We’d love to hear about it. We’re collating your stories of kindness in the hope that we can create an exhibition later in the year, celebrating kindness, creativity and hopes for the future. You can get in touch via email, social media or write to us.

Pledge wall at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

Be inspired by small acts of kindness

Welcome to Calke Abbey's virtual pledge wall, where you'll find lots of inspiration for small acts of kindness that make a big difference.

A legacy of kindness

With the gradual lifting of restrictions throughout the year, we’re hopeful that many other elements of HumanKind can return in 2021 – such as the Chatty Café, a scheme that encourages strangers to sit together and enjoy a chat over a cuppa.

We also hope to take part in the Local History Café again, an initiative that brings people together with history, tea and cake.

In the meantime, we’d love to create connections with you online @NTCalkeAbbey, and if you’re able to visit, let us know what HumanKind means to you.