Light and graceful

From time to time here, we mention the history of Aldershawe, the estate and large house overlooking Lichfield from high on the hill near Wall. This remarkable and secluded property is, of course, closely intertwined with the Harrison family who owned it for a time. In later years, it was a craft centre, livery stables and now seems to be divided up into separate homes and apartments.

Top history ferret Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has been studying a book he obtained a few weeks ago on great country houses, and has found a great writeup of Aldershaw, at that point clearly without it’s current terminal ‘e’.

The book Peter found is ‘Mansions and Country Seats of Staffordshire and Warwickshire’,  Published by Edward Brown at the Mercury offices Bird Street Lichfield, circa 1899. It looks like a wonderful volume.

Peter was good enough to transcribe the article, and I present it here. Peter really does find some great stuff – cheers old chap.

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This is a fine image of the hose, taken from the book in question; it’s hard to see what it’s like these days now the estate has been fenced off from the road. Imaged supplied by Peter Cutler.


Old writers tell us that Aldershaw was formerly a manor. ‘The manor,’ says one, ‘is neat with walled gardens, canals, groves, and other rural ornaments. The situation is pleasant on a rising ground, which commands a fine view of Lichfield Cathedral, and part of the City.’ Others tell us that the name was derived from the words ‘ Alder,’ and ‘ Shaw,’-a place of many trees planted together, or shadow trees. Although, like Wall and Chesterfield, Aldershaw was formerly a manor, it ultimately became absorbed in the Corporation of Lichfield. 

According to old deeds in the possession of the Burnes family, formerly owners of the place, it would seem that about the time of the Conquest some person settled at this place, taking his name from the same – the usual custom in those primitive days, the family retaining possession of the manor until the eleventh year of Henry VIII., if not indeed to a still later period. It then passed into the possession of the Newport family, of whom a prominent member was Sir William Newport. Still later it became the property of the Lyttletons, of which family was Sir Edward Lyttleton, knight, who died possessed of the estate in the reign of Edward VI., leaving it to Sir Edward, his son.

Portions of the estate have also at times been in the possession of the Dutton family, of Wall, as well as in that of Burnes and Floyer. John Burnes was a member of the Corporation of Lichfield in the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1583), and his son Thomas is said to have purchased the estate and mansion, which at the time rejoiced in the possession of a moat. He married Margery, daughter of Mr. Nicholls, of Walsall, who had two sons. One died in the life-time of his father, and the other, John, became a mercer and prominent citizen of Lichfield. He is said to have very strongly supported the cause of the Parliament in the time of the Civil Wars, and in the time of the Commonwealth he was honoured by having conferred upon him the Commission of the Peace. He married Sarah, daughter of Richard Dyott, Esq., of Streethay, and died in 1682. He left a son, Richard, who died ten years later. A John Burnes Floyer was the adopted heir of John Floyer, of Longdon.

The old hall has lately been replaced by a handsome modern residence, nothing of the former erection remaining except an octagonal detached building which was and is used as a larder. The new building occupies a very beautiful site, commanding fine views of Lichfield and its Cathedral two miles away. It is approached through an avenue of beech trees, said to be the finest in the country. One of these trees, which was blown down on March 24th, 1895, measured 75ft in height, and 137ft, in width, with a girth of 19ft. 6 inches, and a diameter of 21ft. at the base of the tree on the ground line. The building is constructed of local bricks of a light red colour, with terra cotta dressings. The gables are all half-timbered in solid oak, with the intervening spaces plastered and finished creamy white. The roofs are covered with local brown tiles.

The general aspect of the house is of a light and graceful character, and the various apartments are suitably arranged with an eye to comfort and convenience. The house was designed by the late Mr. Samuel Loxton, and has since bee carried out by his successors, Messrs. J. H. Hickton and H. E. Farmer, architects, of Walsall. Its present owner is Captain Harrison, J.P., DL. for the County of Stafford, who purchased the property in 1894. Captain Harrison has served the office of High Sheriff of the County.


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3 Responses to Light and graceful

  1. David Oakley. says:

    My grateful thanks to Pedro for this article. Reading through it, I was struck by some familiar names that also appeared in Percy Laithwaite’s ‘History of the Conduit Lands Trust’. A trust which so much benefited Lichfield folk by installing clean water from the Aldershaw springs, and by careful and benevolent use of the revenue accrued from this venture. Deeds of benevolence, both private and public were numerous, a typical example being ….’In the mid-18th century there was a great and growing scarcity of wheat and corn, so much that the poorer members of the community had to pay so much for their supplies of their foodstuffs, as to reduce them to starvation levels…..the Trustees however, took the bold and original course of buying from the farmers large quantities of wheat, rye, oats an barley and re-selling them to the poorer inhabitants at about half of what they had cost’, I was interested to see that many of the early owners and family of ‘Aldershaw’ had something of a social conscience Thomas Burnes was a Trustee in 1586, Richard Dyott of Streethay, in 1634, John Floyer in 1680, John Floyer of Longdon 1n 1720 and a Walter Lyttleton in 1700, who may have been a descendant of Sir Edward Lyttleton
    ‘Crumbs from a rich man’s table’? Well, yes, in some ways, but at the time, in that hard, cruel world of the working classes, there were rich families who metaphorically, were not above stealing the few crumbs from the poor man’s table in order to preserve their own dissolute, lazy lives. So these acts of altruism, manifest in performing these Trustee duties by the ancient owners of ‘Aldershaw’ are not to be despised, but perhaps recognised as an early breakthrough in social reform. We have come quite a long way, since then.

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Clearly, a great find, Pedro.

    Sir Edward Lyttleton died in the reign of Edward VI. Hmm … Reigned 1547-1553. Sources I can find say Sir Edward died 20 Oct 1588 at Pillaton, the family seat.

    Could not work out lineage of Walter Lyttleton, but there must be a strong connection.

  3. Farmers where paid a bounty to grow flax, which was needed for rope making for the Navy etc. One reason why food crops where scarce. Some made a future from doing so.

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