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Miss Mary Dyott's Speech

The text below is a transcript of a speech given by Miss Mary Dyott about 1979/80 on the Manor House and Village of Elford.





   I have divided this talk into 5 parts. The history of the owners of the land between 1004-1935, the history of the Manor of Elford, a short history of Fisherwick as from about 1800 it formed part of the Elford Estate, a few words on the Church you already have much of the history in the pamphlet in the church and I will try not to repeat this and lastly a few words on the village old and new.




       This is far too complicated to go into in any detail. It appears never to have been sold but always passed to some other member of the family. I have heard it passed through the female line 11 times.


          In 1004 Wulfric Spot who founded Burton Abbey gave Elleford and Oakley (an old Manor situated about 1 mile north west from the Church) to his daughter but at the time of Doomsday it was held by the King. It is not known how long he held it but by the time of Henry 111 1216 1272 it was owned by Wakelin de Ardern. From the Arderns it went to the Stanleys and hence to the Stantons, the Smythes, and the Huddlestones, always through of male issue. In the latter days of Henry V111 1509 - 1547 to the family of Bowes, in that Sir John Bowes married Anne Huddleston, the heiress of Elford. John Bowes came of a race, which for some generations had been connected with Staffordshire. One John Bowes owned lands in Tipton, Stafford, Gnosall, Tamworth and Oakley in the reign of Edward V1 1547 1553.


          Little is know of Sir John Bowes beyond the appalling rows he had with his neighbour William Skeffington of Fisherwick. They fought over land and fishing rights in a most un-neighbourly and unchristian way. He is known to have been the father of a son Richard and a daughter Elizabeth, the latter born in 1580.


          Many years passed away and at the end of 1656 the last male heir of the race of Bowes of Elford died he was George Bowes who had married Mary Burdett of Bramcote near Polesworth. The union was not a long one, he died at the age of 36 and his widow survived him by 44 years. Their one and only son dying 4 years after his father at the age of 14.


          Mary Bowes born Burdett (known in Elford as old madam Bowes) was a remarkable woman. She had sound Christian principles, excellent judgement, shrewd foresight, masculine resolution, a kind heart and generous hand. She produced results most beneficial to the Elford Estates. She had one small daughter who was only 6 when her father died and she became heiress to the Elford Estates. Mary as she was christened married in 1683 Craven Howard but continued to live in Elford for the 17 years of her married life.


          Old madam Bowes who remained in Elford with her daughter and son-in-law died in 1700. She left instructions for her funeral more or less as follows:-

To be privately buried as I have lived.

Bury the next day after my death.

No black hung in the Chantry.

No Hurst of clothe over my corpse.


She left endless instructions as to what was to be given to the poor and needy, servants and those working on the Estate. Madam Bowes died in March, her son-in-law in June and daughter Mary in August.


Mary, madam Bowes daughter who had married Craven Howard had 2 daughters and one son; the one son was born in 1688 and named Henry Bowes-Howard. Thus into Elford the line of Howard, (for Henry was the great nephew of Thomas 1st Earl of Berkshire) Henry took his seat in the House of Lords in 1708 as 4th Earl of Berkshire.

It was he of course who built Elford Hall as we remember it. He and his wife Catherine Graham had many children, few survived, but amongst them was William Viscount Andover born 1714.  In fact out of 9 children only William and one brother Thomas lived to maturity. Thomas inherited Ashstead which property on his death came back to William Viscount Andover, together with Levens, and Castle Rising. William married in 1736 Lady Mary Finch 2nd daughter of the Earl of Aylesford. He became the father of 4 children and made Elford his residence. Lord Andover died on the 15th of July 1756, he was returning from Lichfield via Fisherwick Park, he had reached within a few yards of the lodge now known as Copes Lodge by Stubby Leas when the young horse he was riding took fright and threw him, he received such injuries that he died on the spot.


3 of Lord Andovers children I need not refer to again, but the 4th child a girl named Frances born in 1747 became in the course of time the owner of Elford, inherited from her mother the Viscountess Andover.


She married in 1783 Richard Bagot 5th son of Sir Walter Wagstaffe Bagot who assumed the name of Howard, his wife Frances of course being an heiress. This constant change of name on marrying an heiress must seem to you to make for complications. Frances Howard must have been 36 when she married. However she had 3 children, 1st Mary born in 1785 and who did not die until 1877, some 8 years before my Mother was born. 2nd Henry born 1787 and died of smallpox in 1788. 3rd Henry Richard born 1788 and died the following year.


We are of course only interested in Mary Howard the name being familiar to most of you. Mary Howard married at the age of 22 in 1807. The Hon. Faulk Greville Upton 2nd son of the 1st Lord Templetown, he like many before him assumed the name of Howard upon his marriage to an heiress. He died aged 72 at Elford, but is buried in Ashstead.


I must dwell briefly on the virtues of Mary Howard. The possessor of the Estates of Castle Rising in Norfolk, Elford in Staffordshire, Levens in Westmoreland and Ashstead in Surrey. She accepted this trust with deep responsibility forever dwelling amongst her own people. A kind and good Christian she did much for the people working on her Estates, her poor relations (and there were many) her servants and very many private charities. She was responsible for the re-building or restoration of some 12 churches; she re-built several schools and cottages, including the school in Elford. She founded or endowed many charities. Dying in Ashstead in her 93rd year she left something in the region of 3 million. One is apt to say good heavens she could well afford to give so much away, but I have often been told that she lived a most simple and plain life with no extravagances whatsoever.


And of the vast sum she left very little was in what we would call hard cash. Her 3 million really consisted of the value of the land, houses and the contents of the houses.


She left no children and the estates were left to various cousins. And here we come to my Great Grandfather, Francis Edward Paget, Rector of Elford.


I must give you a short resume of the Paget clan, a good old Staffordshire clan.


Paget can be traced back to the reign of Henry V11.  Lewis Paget lived in Staffordshire. Possibly one of his brothers William Paget was born near Wednesbury. He went to London and had 4 children. William his eldest son was born in 1506 quite obviously a person of great and eminent abilities. Educated at St Pauls School and Trinity Collage Cambridge. By the age of 24 he was already recognised by Henry V111 and after that did much for the King. In 1540 he was made clerk of the Privy Council 1544 he was knighted. The story goes that HenryV111 wanted to make him an Earl. Thanks replied Paget. I beg to refuse the honour as I would rather keep my head. (1547) On his death bed Henry V111 bequeathed Paget 300, and appointed him an executor. In 1549 he was summoned to the House of Peers and took his seat on December 3rd as Baron Paget of Beaudesert in the County of Stafford. On January 19th 1550 he was formally created to that honour.


The important bearing on this is the fact that the Barony of Paget was entailed to descend both through male and female children. He died on January 9th 1563 aged 57. Two hundred years later the barony did descend through the female line there being no male heir but one female.


Caroline Paget who married Sir Nicolas Bayly of Plasnyddidd. Her son Henry born 1744 became 9th Baron in right of his Mother. He in turn became the Father of the 1st marquess of Anglesey my Great, Great, Great Uncle.


The first Lord Anglesey had several brothers, but we are only interested in the 4th son Edward. He married first Hon. Frances Bagot. She died in childbirth the follwing year, giving birth to Francis Edward Paget my Great Grandfather. He married secondly, Lady Harriet Legge but hat is not of much interest to us. Francis Paget being Motherless was brought up at Blythfield by his Grandparents. Being a cousin of Mary Howards through the Bagots, it was she who gave him the living at Elford. He in his turn had 5 daughters and at the very end one son. Francis Howard Paget my Grandfather who died in 1935 a cousin of Mary Howards to whom she left the Elford Estate. The rest of the story may be known to most of you, but I put it briefly as now nearly 50 years have passed since Birmingham became the owners.


Perhaps my Grandfather had some idea of what might happen, but family gossip goes that on his deathbed in 1935 he made his eldest son promise he would never sell the Estate. Undaunted by his promise within 2 years it was given to the Birmingham Corporation. You might ask why? The family asked why? 50years ago. Some called it madness some generosity, some called it a scandal, but I do not think that at the moment he had any idea how things would turn out. The gift consisted of the house, cottages, some 600 acres of land, 70 acres of woodland and facilities for boating on several miles of river. He also gave the Corporation 1,000 for re-planting woodlands.


There were some conditions namely that the Estate should be preserved as an open space and not broken up for 100 years. Pensioners on the Estate should not be disturbed but if no use could be found for the Manor House it might be demolished with some ceremony, he cut a piece of turf which was placed in a silver casket. So far as I know this casket is still somewhere in the Birmingham Museum. England is at last waking up to the fact he added that there must be trees and shrubs and open spaces for her citizens, not only for there enjoyment but also for there health. Alas for the best laid plans of mice and men. One wonders sometimes if there is anyone living in Birmingham who has ever heard of Elford, let alone allowed to make use of the facilities, which my Uncle mentioned. Maybe we should not be to hard on Birmingham, those who accepted the gift are long since dead and times do change.




          Long ago Needwood Forest reached to within a few miles of Elford. Tradition has placed the Manor House around 1480 in a situation nearer to Oakley and Croxall. It is not improbable that The Slang Oak stood in what was Elford Park surrounding the house. There is evidence to show that Lords of the Manor resided there from a period dating from the reign of Henry V11 1457 1509. Maps appearing around 1509 do not all mark the position of the house, but neither do they mark the spot where the more ancient mansion is believed to have stood, further down the river towards Fisherwick where the river takes a sharp bend. Here in the days of my youth one could walk across the river to the Fisherwick Woods over what was called The Scour (The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Scour as a place scoured by running water) and it really only some few inches deep.


    The 3rd Mansion now pulled down some 15 years ago was built by Henry-Bowes Howard who took his seat in the House of Lords as 4th Earl of Berkshire in 1708. He married in 1709 his first cousin Catherine daughter and heiress of Colonel James Graham of Levens Westmoreland. Soon after this he began to build the 3rd Mansion but it was not however completed in his lifetime. His son, William Viscount Andover finished the job. Paget records at this point that the stables were not built until sometime afterwards, but gives no date.


This house consisted of 3 floors and a basement, why on earth a basement is hard to understand. The Kitchens ran along the edge of the churchyard at the back of the house with some 6 or 8 bedrooms above. The third side of the courtyard was the Laundry with what had been manservants bedrooms above. The Servants Hall, which was large and long, ran down the fourth side. Thus was single story.


The basement itself consisted of a number smallish dark rooms such as, wine cellars, china closets, Butlers Pantry, Housemaids Closet and still rooms meat larders etc. from the dinning room one had to go down a long dark staircase (lit by candles) along the stone passage of the basement and up a smaller flight of stairs to the ground level of the Kitchen. Why any food arrived warm is hard to believe and the mind boggles at the number of parlour maids or members of the household who fell down what was known as The Dark Staircase. Two flights of stair went from the so-called ground floor to the first floor of bedrooms. One was of Golden Oak, very wide but narrow treads the other scrubbed oak with large wide dark handrail and big newel posts.


Of the 6 bedrooms on that floor, the one I remember most was perhaps the Four Poster Bedroom known I think as the Mary Howard Room. The bed was nearly 7 feet wide, the furniture dark and heavily carved or inlaid. To finish the suit there was a boudoir for the lady, a dressing room for the man and a very dark somewhat smaller room (no window), which contained 2 wash hand, stands. A hipbath, a saucer bath, a bidet pan and a rather large china bowl some 18 inches deep and 2 feet across which I was told was to wash your feet in! On the top floor there were some 6 8 bedrooms, there had been school rooms and bedrooms etc for the young of the household, but were never used in my day.


When I stayed with my Grandparents the household ran strictly to time, i.e., Morning Prayers 8.45 a.m., Breakfast 9 a.m., Lunch 1 oclock, Tea 5 p.m. and dinner 7.30. Evening Prayers shortly after dinner had finished. All prayers were held in the Chapel. Looking back I would recall that it must have held some 25-30 persons. The alter was raised on three steps in a sort of alcove. There was a small organ in one corner upon which on some occasions my Grandmother played a Hymn. On 4 5 mornings a week my Grandfather held prayers for the men at 6.30 a.m. Much to there credit all the men on the estate arranged amongst them selves that some of them would attend these prayers so that there was always someone there.


There was of course no central heating, no light other than candles and no bathrooms. There where however 3 water closets. The water for these and the taps in the Kitchen was pumped up by hand to a tank in the house twice a day. The pump room, which I think, is still there was a small bothy at the top of the wide path going down to the garden house. Where on earth the water came from I have no idea, but I feel there must have been a well in the vicinity as we always drank the water. All the drains went into the river as they all did in the village. This I might add never stopped us swimming in the river. When the river flooded the water was apt to come into the basement passage backwards up the drains. My Mother always said she remembered during one bad flood they had a small boat and rowed in the basement passage.


Apart from the 3 water closets there were 3 earth closets, the one leading from my Grandfathers study was his private domain he would use no other.


To keep us warm there were 3 fires, one in the drawing room, one in the dinning room and one in my Grandfathers study. The Kitchen had 2 large ranges this perhaps was the only warm room in the house, but being some150 yards away it was not of much use to us.


Living was extremely simple. Bacon/Egg or Sausage breakfast, Meat, Vegetables and steamed pudding lunch, and for dinner (although we put on evening dress) consisted of such odd things as a poached egg in oxo, nut rissoles which my Grandmother loved or boiled cod. Followed by normally a fruit pie.


Angelica was grown in the garden. Cooked fresh angelica tart was a great favourite with some members of the family and heartily disliked by others.


One of my Uncles once rescued a drowning Thrush from the river, brought it to the Kitchen to dry out. Having recovered it hopped onto the Kitchen table and spotting a large Angelica it flew into the middle, discharged the largest mess it could produce, flew through the window and disappeared. From the members of the family who disliked Angelica (including my Uncle) there were loud cheers when only a junket arrived for lunch.


There was no variation.


Bread was made in the old bread ovens on a Monday and this would last the week. My Grandmother who would insist on buying tea 56lbs at once was always surprised how short a time it lasted. As the Kitchen range was never without a pot of tea stewing on the hob this is not to be wondered at.


Life went on quietly and uneventfully untill my Grandmother died in 1934, whereupon my Grandfather said he could not live without his "Honey Pot Angel" as he called her. Turned his face to the wall and within a year was dead.





The original Elizabethan Fisherwick Hall was owned by the Family of Skeffington for some 200 years. The last of the family by then Lord Massareene died in 1757.


Mr Swinfen of Swinfen had purchased the estate a year before. He only held it for a few months. It was sold to Samuel Hill of Shenstone Park who almost immediately died and it passed to his nephew Mr Egerton of Tatton, but he resold it at once back to Mr Swinfen who at once sold it to the 1st Marquis of Donegall; Great Nephew of Lord Massareene.


In 1766 he pulled down the Elizabethan Mansion and erected a most pretentious which was not finished until 1774. this cost 200,000 and Capability Brown laid out the gardens. Lord Donegall is supposed to have lost the estate when gambling in Lichfield but what was left of it passed to his son in 1799. In 6 years he sold up, part was bought by Sir Robert Peel and the rest including the house by Mr Richard Howard of Elford. The Hall, which had only stood for 40 years, was pulled down.


Mr Richard Howard was born the 5th son of Sir Walter Bagot assuming the name Howard when he married in 1783 Lady Frances Howard Mother of the Hon. Mary Howard so well remembered by Elford residents for her building of the school.


Nothing is left of Capability Browns work, so far as I know the walls of the Kitchen garden still stand, through which the heated pipes run or did run to warm the walls. The orangery is a wreck of its former self and the woodlands of course belong to Birmingham.




I am not saying much about the Church as most of you will have some idea of the history, and there is a good pamphlet in the Church,

There are however one or two things that might interest you.


 It is reasonable to suppose that the first Church was erected about the end of the 11th or early 12th century, the original founder was of the de Ellefords, possibly Hugo de Elleford.


The old north wall pulled down in 1848 was found to contain amongst the rubble, stones between the courses of ashlar which had evidently been used in the erection of a building of early Norman date. The old Church possessed a nave, south aisle and short chancel.


The Chantry was erected towards the close of the 10th century. This Chantry of the Cross dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary had provisions made for the maintenance of lights before the image of the Virgin for ever. During the restoration in 1848 a niche in the wall was discovered in the rear of which was found a tiny chimney to the sides of which adhered dense masses of soot from the lamp which had been maintained before the image of the Virgin, but which had been extinguished when Henry V111 in 1545 abolished all Chantries.


It is said that the commissioners for Church goods found little booty at Elford, the extent of there gains on may 14th 1552 being as follows: a Chalice and paten of silver, half dozen vestments, a cope, four albs and an amice (an oblong piece of cloth worn round the neck and shoulders), four alter cloths, 2 Towels, 2 pewter cruets, 2 cloths (napkins), 2 frontals, a pyx and censor of brass and 3 bells, value for whole 10. the puritan Rector, Tomas Dowtey, appears to have spared much in the Church. Below the wall plate in the Chantry are the shields of the Lords of the Manor from the Saxon to the present times, those on the North side comprise a list of 16 from the Earl of Mercia to Stanley, and Arderne, those on the South side a list of 10 from Stanley to Howard.


The Tomb of Sir Thomas Arderne is one of the finest, together with his wife Matilda, the daughter and heiress of Sir Richard Stafford. Sir Thomas is equipped in armour of the period, holding his wifes hand. This does not necessarily mean affection; it generally means the wife was an heiress, which in this case she certainly was. The shields round the sides of the tomb supported by figures are the quarterings  of a number of families, including the Arderenes , Staffords, Bagoys, Pepes, Campvilles, Traceys, Corbets, Bassets and Marmions etc.


In 1899 the living about 200 per annum was including 240 acres of glebe. The register dates from 1552.


 And now a few words about the old pulpit, which once stood in the Church.

The old Jacobean pulpit was given to Lichfield Cathedral by the Reverend Prebendary Bacon in 1671, who preached the first sermon from it on the 4th Sunday after Trinity of that year. It remained in the Cathedral for 118 years. In 1789 it was purchased by Lady Andover and the Reverend W.Sawtry and erected in Elford Church near the west door where it remained for 59 years. In 1848 when Elford Church was restored the pulpit was taken out and lay in dust and oblivion for 59 years. I remember my Mother saying that as a child she and her brothers used to climb into the bit that was in the stables and preach sermons. In 1912 Whittington Church was restored and my Mother remembering the pulpit asked Elford if Whittington might have it. Many letters were exchanged between my Grandfather, the Reverend Ernest Hammick, Rector of Elford and my Father and the Reverend D. Cohu, Vicar of Whittington.   


My Grandfather writes that part of the pulpit lay in the rectory stables, part in the timber yard, part with the fire engine. Later he writes that a further part had been found elsewhere. So much for a 15th century pulpit. It was decided however not to make an out and out gift to Whittington. It should go on loan. An extremely lengthy agreement was drawn up stating that Whittington must keep the said pulpit in good order, preserve it from being altered in any way and insure it for not less than 50. Should Whittington have no further use for it, it must be returned to Elford. This all strikes me as rather funny when one considers how Elford had treated it for 74 years.


In 1939 the Cathedral suddenly thought it would be a good idea to have it back. Whittington expressed dismay and appealed to Elford. Few letters remain of this part of the story, but the long and short of it was that Elford gave the pulpit to Whittington and left it to them to do as they wished, as the pulpit was now legally theirs. Whittington would not part with it and the matter was dropped. It is still in Whittington Church. Should you go and see it you will notice that the Wine Stem supporting the pulpit is sunk into a hole in the floor. My Father said that when he went into the Church to see how things were going, he found the men about to cut off the Wine Stem as the pulpit was to high. He stopped this and made them sink it into the floor. Before I leave the subject of the pulpit I should add that I have always understood that your pulpit in Elford, put in in 1848 is made up of 12 different kinds of wood to mark the 12 Apostles but I have never had this confirmed.


The history of the tombs is lengthy and can be found in many reference books. I expect you know that when the Church was restored in 1848 parts of the William Staunton tomb and parts of the Ardeene tomb were found inverted and formed part of the pavement of the Church. Upon further investigation Norman stonework, medieval tiles and ancient coffins were also discovered. One massive stone coffin was found the length was 6ft 6 inches and it was 18 inches wide at the head. In it were human remains, probably 12th century. I expect you have noticed the carving of the birds nest on one of the Chancel Capitals. During the restoration in 1846 a swallow built in the Church and much work was halted whilst the bird sat. So touched was the stonemason that he carved a bird alighting on its nest.


In the days of my youth we all sat in the Chantry Chapel. The door from the Hall led straight into the churchyard across to the Chapel door. We did not have far to go. We took our pews very much in "pecking order" with my Grandparents infront. As each member of the family left home we were moved up one. When all my Aunts and Uncles had gone I found myself at last in the pew alongside my Grandparents.




Having given you a brief outline of the history of the village, Manor House, its owners and the Church I must add just a few notes.


The first mention of Elford was around 667A.D.


The last Manor House was demolished by Birmingham in 1965.


When my Mother was married in 1906 it was found that there was no record of a daughter of the house being married in the Church for 300 years.


Lord Donegall built the bridges over the river. In my day there was no fork of the road as you left the bridge on the Elford side. The road bent towards Tamworth and vehicles had to double back towards Elford. Gossip has it that Lord Donegall did this to annoy Lord Andover with who he was not on very good terms it made it difficult for him to turn his carriages as he crossed the bridge.


What is known as The Mile Wall between Copes Lodge and Mr Wards farm was built by Lord Donegall. He used bricks left over from the building of Clifton Campville Hall, which was never completed. Donegall had a private racecourse, which ran behind the wall, and he was anxious that passers-by should not see what was going on.


In the First World War the Post Office was at the far end of The Square on the right hand side, it was kept by a Mr Cunningham. From there it moved to The Wickets where it was kept by Mrs Griffiths born Jinny Salt of Elford. She was an old and much loved friend of my family. When staying at Elford I took tea with her every Saturday. From there the Post Office moved to its present position.


The Rectory was sold to Lady Piercey about 1952/3 and the present one was built in part of the garden.


My Mother was born in a top back room of Avenue House. Whilst my Grandfather managed the estate, Miss Eleanor Bagot lived in the Hall. Mrs Howard in her will, left the estate to my Grandfather but Eleanor Bagot was to live in the hall for the rest of her life. She out lived Mrs Howard by 10 years.


There were few rules to be obeyed when I stayed with my Grandparents, which I did very often and for weeks ay a time. Three times to Church on Sunday. I must be in by midnight and was given a key for the door leading into the churchyard. One has to remember that with no car it was unlikely that I stayed out until that time.


Never must I be late for a meal. My Grandfather stood up and would not sit down until everyone staying in the house had assembled round the table. Woe to any unpunctual visitor! He then said grace and we seated ourselves.


I cannot close without mention of the Head Gardener our beloved Jim Mewis. Around the same age as my Grandfather he started in the gardens at the age of 10 and finally became head gardener. He attended to all the wants of the young Pagets, fed them on fruit from the greenhouses, hid them behind hedges when they were where they should not be and would always defend them when in trouble. During the First World War my Sister and I together with our nurse spent weeks at the Garden House. He was just the same with us. I certainly believe he would invent any story to get us out of trouble. So far as my Grandfather was concerned Jim always had the last word. He died in 1938 and is buried in Elford. He was indeed what my Mother would have called one of natures gentlemen. In these days I do not think people realise the deep affection which existed between the old families who employed labour and the old families they employed, such people as old Jim, Jinny Griffiths who in the days of her youth eas a housemaid at the Hall, Mr Phillips who sang in the choir for 60 years, old George Williams who dug the graves. All of these and many more were not only respected but dearly loved.


I am going to close this talk, which I hope has not been to full of dates or to long winded, be two of my favourite quotations;


First from Tennyson:


The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And god fulfils himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world.


And secondly the last verse of a poem I found in an old autograph book dated approximately 1860


We seem to live so many lives,

    Of mingled joy and pain,

The old hopes pass away, and we

    Begin our tasks again.


The photographs below are of memorial stones in St Peters Church Elford and are mentioned in the speech above.
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