EyamRobert Murray Gilchrist (1867-1917)
Eyam, Eyam S32

Robert Murray Gilchrist (1867-1917), or ‘The Peak Novelist’

The little known Victorian author Robert Murray Gilchrist was born in Sheffield in 1868, and given the apt title ‘The Peak Novelist.’ Gilchrist wrote short fiction that can be viewed as a blend of Gothic, horror and decadent genres, with one anonymous reviewer even identifying the influences of Edgar Allan Poe within Gilchrist’s ‘The Stone Dragon.’ However, unlike many of his contemporaries who moved to the urban scenes of London to write, Gilchrist chose to remain living within close proximity of the Peaks, which are a key feature of his prose and non-fiction. Publishing one hundred short stories, twenty two novels, and six short story collections, as well as four topographical books (including The Peak District in 1911) before his death in 1917, his stories are laced with rich descriptions of the Peaks and the surrounding villages. Frequently, Gilchrist exploits the inherent Gothic character of his surroundings, as seen in ‘A Night on the Moor’ and ‘A Witch in the Peak,’ and his fictional town Milton that often featured within his stories was based on the village of Eyam.  Situated within the Peak District, Eyam was home to Gilchrist before he finally moved to Cartledge Hall, his family residence in Holmesfield, which is also a village that lies close to the Peaks. It was in Holmesfield that Gilchrist began writing his fiction, and he was buried in the local church St. Swithins, leaving behind a prolific legacy of topographical and Gothic fiction. 

 

Interesting fact: The village of Eyam is also known as the ‘Plague Village’ because of an outbreak of bubonic plague that occurred in 1655. This outbreak was notable because the villagers chose to isolate themselves rather than spread the plague.