Thomas Legh and Regency Lyme
In this 200th anniversary year of the death of Jane Austen, Lyme turns back the clock to the Regency era, where you can uncover the fascinating story of Thomas Legh, Lyme’s very own Regency Indiana Jones. Dress up in Regency costume, and enjoy the sounds of period music and events, including Regency dancing and military re-enactments.
Throughout 2017, you can step back to the Regency period at Lyme to learn about our Regency hero Thomas Legh of Lyme.
In the 200th anniversary year of Jane Austen’s death, we are proudly telling the story of Thomas – who could have been someone whom Ms Austen may well have approved of!
Thomas (1792-1857) was the eldest, illegitimate son of Colonel Thomas Legh of Lyme and a maid from the Vicarage near his Lancashire estate, Haydock.
As a five year old, Thomas inherited Lyme and its estates – the equivalent today of around £2 million. His great wealth allowed him to travel, and aged 21 he became one of the first Europeans to travel the Nile as far as Nubia in modern day Egypt. He also explored Greece, and the lesser known parts of Petra, Jerusalem, Syria and the Turkish Ottoman Empire. In fact he was the Indiana Jones of his day, at one point wresting with crocodiles! He wrote a diary of his adventures which is still at Lyme today and brought back many beautiful antiques.
Thomas was also a romantic hero: he was instrumental in saving a young heiress, Ellen Turner, who had been abducted. He later married her in 1828 when she was just 16, but she sadly died in 1831 following a still birth. She and her baby were buried together at a local church.
Although there is no specific evidence, we think Thomas may have given Ellen the beautiful Erard harp in 1829; this harp resides at Lyme today. The harp has recently been restored and played by a harpist from the Royal Northern College of Music.
To get over Ellen's death, Thomas set off travelling again and it was 12 years before he 'settled down' and married his second wife, Maud Lowther in 1843.
During his life, Thomas 'rescued' Lyme which had been left to fall into decay and disrepair by his father. The house we see today is a result of his work.
Thomas was also an entrepreneur; he was a big supporter of the new railway from Manchester to Liverpool - and we have a portrait of the Duke of Wellington and Thomas in a carriage at the opening of the new railway. Thomas held estates in the Lancashire coalfields and he wanted to encourage the railway to pass through Lyme so he could transport his own coal. He encouraged the building of the line from Manchester to Disley, but sadly he died just after it was confirmed. The line went ahead and is still in use today.
As part of its Regency year, Lyme will be marking the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death in July.
Spotlight talks and tours
Spotlight talks and tours are changing in 2017. We are enhancing the successful programme of talks and tours that we deliver to our visitors, more information about each is provided below. Please remember that they are all led by our amazing volunteer team and we can’t promise to deliver a full programme every day.
A Short History of Lyme
A gallop through 600 years of history of the Legh family and their beloved Lyme
How long? 20 minutes
How much? Included in park entry charge
When? Friday to Tuesday at 11:15, 12:15, 13:15 & 14:15
Hear tales of Thomas Legh’s adventures, romances and his revival of Lyme
How long? 20 minutes
Where? State Bedroom in the house
How much? Normal house admission charges apply and free to members
When? Friday to Tuesday at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00 & 15:00
Behind the Scenes Tours (7 days a week)
Delve behind the scenes and visit the Butler's and footmen's working areas of the house. Walk along the mysteriously- named Dark Passage.
How long? 30 - 45 minutes
Where? Meet your guide in the courtyard
How much? Normal house admission charges apply and free to member
A lanyard ticket will be given to the tour group by the VRA team in the Stone Parlour
When? Friday to Tuesday at 11:45, 12:45, 13:45 & 14:45
Important information for the Behind the Scenes Tours:
For safety reasons numbers are strictly limited to 15 people per tour.
The tour route is physically demanding and includes a number of flights of stairs.