The Old Rectory
St Mary’s Church
The Malt House
Little Hay Manor House
|Colton has been here as a settlement certainly since Saxon times and quite possibly earlier and there is evidence of Bronze age activity within the vicinity.
The oldest building we now have in the village is the church, the tower of which dates from the late Norman period.
Through the ages there have been a number of buildings in Colton of considerable interest that we have researched quite a lot of information about even though most of them have now disappeared. Some we have pictures of so that we know what they looked like.
There are however enough buildings still in existence in the village to allow us to trace the rich diversity of changes through the centuries and to make a walk through the village of considerable interest.
We have produced a map and leaflet to assist in walking through the village. It can be obtained here.
Photos and more information may be found in the wiki.
Built in the early 18th. century this house has a history of being occupied by some interesting people
|At the turning to Colton village the ruined house on the left hand side is what is left of the first Bellamour Hall built approximately 1635.
Herbert Aston who had been secretary to his father Lord Walter Aston was the second son and therefore did not inherit the main estates at Tixall but was given a small estate in Colton.
Friends of the impoverished Herbert, loaned or gave him money to build the house known as ‘Bellamore’, Italian for ‘good love’ because of the affection his friends had shown him and to honour his wife. It was in this house that the Popish Plot- a plot that it was claimed was intended to kill the King; was partly hatched in 1679.
|Herbert Aston was a Catholic in the time when Catholicism was outlawed in this country and he had allegedly had a hand in the plot made by a group of Catholics. He along with Lord Stafford were incarcerated in the Tower of London. Lord Stafford lost his head before the plot was revealed as a hoax and fortunately for Herbert Aston he was released.
|In the following century the house passed by marriage into the Blount family. In 1796 the then widowed Lady Blount had a second bigger hall built for her son Edward close to the first hall and the first hall was let to tenants. In 1824 it was sold to James Oldham Oldham, a retired Indian Judge and then on his death in 1857 to the M.P. for Liverpool Mr. T.B. Horsfall. He improved and extended the estate creating in the process one of the finest gardens in Staffordshire at that time designed and tended by George Morrall. He also became a great benefactor to the village. He was instrumental in having the school built on land he donated, having the Reading Room built and also gave land for the creating of a cemetery. The second hall was finally sold in 1921 and demolished soon after.The first hall was stripped and steadily fell into disrepair and is the ruin you see today.
|This house was built in the Victorian style in 1851 by James Oldham Oldham, the owner of the Bellamour Estate in Colton, for his unmarried daughter Ellen to live in. Over the years following the house was extended and its gardens were improved to make it one of the grandest houses in Colton. Miss Oldham was a very generous donor to the village. She gave a substantial amount of money towards the renovation of the church and also started a school for the girls of the village in Bellamour Old Hall.
On all the old maps we have of the village it is to be noted that in the grounds of Bellamour Lodge there is reference to a ‘chapel yard.’ The chapel yard had disappeared but according to Rev. F. Parker in his book ‘Colton and the DeWasteney’s published in 1879; around 1825 when some workmen were employed digging gravel on this site which is now part of the lawn; they discovered the foundations of an ancient chapel. Along with the traces of the foundations was also unearthed a stone head carving which could possibly have been a corbel. This is now preserved in the village.
Also on the same site a number of human bones were dug up which led Rev. Parker to suggest that this may have indeed been an ancient burial ground. With its proximity to the stream it is possible that this in fact was the site of a burial site from Saxon times because we do know that there was a Priest living in Colton then.
Ellen Oldham died in 1883 and left the house to her sister Elizabeth Harland. Mrs. Harland had the alms houses in Colton built in memory of her sister. She died in 1905 and the house passed to her nephew Charles Oldham. It finally passed out of the Oldham family in 1935; was bought first by the Riley’s a shoe manufacturer from Stafford, then a Birmingham business couple, the Morleys. In the late 1940’s it was purchased by John Price a former dentist who farmed the land on his death it was sold to the present owners who have carefully restored much of its original elegance.
The Old Rectory
Colton Old Rectory (picture courtesy of Dorothy Bradbury).
|The home for the Rector of St. Mary’s Church, had for many years been on the west side of the church very close to the stream and next to the tithe barn. This house was built on damp and low lying land and not conducive to the good health of its occupants.
At the beginning of the 19th. century the then Rector, Rev. John Landor complained bitterly about this unhealthy environment for his family and maintained it had caused the death of 7 of his children. The Landors, a prosperous Rugeley family with land also in Colton, had presented to the living and been Rectors in Colton since 1767. The family therefore in the 19th. century decided to finance the building of a new rectory (now known as The Old Rectory) on the east side of church away from Moreton Brook.
The house was made bigger in 1875 and John Landor was succeeded by his nephew Charles Savage Landor, brother of the poet Walter Savage Landor. Upon his death he was succeeded by Rev. Abdail Seaton in 1849.
The Rectory was a large house which was fortunate because the Rev. Abdail Seaton brought up a family of thirteen children there! It was whilst he was Rector that the rebuilding of the church took place.
On the death of Abdail Seaton the new Rector was Frederick Parker and it was whilst he lived in the Rectory from 1874 to 1921 that he spent his time writing an extensive history of Colton based on his researches as a founder member of the William Salt Library in Stafford.
This house was home to the Rectors of Colton until the beginning of the 1970’s when it was decided by the church that it was too big and costly to run in the 20th. Century. It was therefore sold as a private house and a new Rectory was built back on the west side of the church next to Moreton Brook!
St. Mary’s Church
|The church that stands in Colton today contains parts of the building tracing back to the very late 12th. or early 13th. Century. The base of a preaching cross was moved from amongst the graves in 1957 and placed between the tower and the porch and could have been the first evidence of the practice of the Christian religion in Colton in Saxon times. We do know there was a Priest in Colton then according to the Domesday entry for Colton.
The tower is probably the oldest part of the building we see today. Its substantial base and lower part are very much in the late Norman style of architecture. The south aisle west wall, the south wall, doors and windows of the present day vestry area and the lower parts of some of the interior columns are all of the Early English style of architecture of the 13th. century.
Sketch from Colton and the DeWasteney’s by Rev. Parker 1879
|Late 14th. century frescoes were also discovered beneath plaster when restoration work was undertaken in 1850/51 in what had been the chancel and is now the vestry. One of the scenes depicted St. Nicholas. They were thought to have been painted in the time of Nicholas De Gresley when he acquired the Manor of Colton by his marriage to Thomasine DeWasteney. St.Nichloas could well have been his patron saint. Unfortunately these paintings were lost in the restoration but we do have drawings of them.
Other remains of this early period are the sedilia and ancient piscina all found now in the present day vestry formerly the chancel. Also there are some small pieces of medieval glass in the windows of the tower. Medieval glass working went on in and around Colton. The squint or ‘leper window’ is still in situ on the south wall. This is the aperture through which the ordinary folk would have viewed the elevation of the host by the Priest at the celebration of the mass as they were not allowed into the church to witness it in those times.
Through the 17th. century the church was much neglected and remedial works were carried out to prevent it falling down. These repairs included a brick wall on the north side which must have looked pretty ugly! By the middle of the 19th. century the church was ready for a major restoration. Abdail Seaton, the Rector with his wife Lucy, the daughter of a wealthy Lichfield banker, and a wealthy Colton resident, Ellen Oldham, mainly financed this major work. They employed George Edmund Street, an eminent Victorian architect.
The work was in the early English style and involved the rebuilding of the nave removing the clerestory, the chancel, north and south aisles and the porch. Street also designed for the church the alter rails, screens to divide Chancel from Nave, pulpit, font, the communion vessels and the alms dish. Herbert Minton gave tiles for the altar area and this gift is recorded in the Minton Factory archives. The Medieval misericords were purchased by Rev. Seaton from a property in Wales and placed in the Chancel. One is thought to be very rare because it portrays Janus.
There are 6 bells. The oldest are 1704, 1791, 1852. Another was added in the 1980’s and two more were given in 2000. The organ dates from 1879 and incorporates the 1851 organ.
Boughey Hall Farm, dating from 1257
Boughey Hall today is a collection of 18th Century barns converted into houses in the 1990’s surrounding the renovated 18th century farm house .
|There has been a farm on this site however since around 1257. We have written evidence that the Lords of the Manor of Colton, the DeWasteney family, gave this area of land in Colton to St. Thomas’s Priory in Stafford. This was a common practice by the manorial lords in those days. They believed that bequests to the clergy in this case the Augustinian order, would help buy them a better passage into heaven! This site at Colton appears to have become a Grange as it is so named in 1284; that is a farm paying all its dues to the Priory.
The ownership of the Colton Grange by the priory came to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. In 1539 the Priory and all its lands was given to Bishop Lee of Lichfield by Henry. Upon his death the Colton Grange passed to his nephew George Fowler. Not long after George Fowler sold it to Sampson Boughey from a north Staffordshire family based around Audley. They gave the farm its present name.
The farm passed through three generations from Sampson to his son George and then to his son Sampson. In 1658 the then Sampson died leaving no male heirs and his five daughters inherited the farm between them. The youngest daughter Constance married Whitehall Degge in 1664, the son of a local well known dignitary Sir Simon Degge. Together they bought out the other sisters so that Constance owned Boughey Hall Farm in total. Shortly after Whitehall died leaving Constance a widow with one son.
In 1678 Constance remarried. She married Thomas Whitgreave one of the rescuers of Charles II in his flight from Cromwell’s forces. With this marriage the farm passed into the Whitgreave family estates and she ceased living at Boughey Hall Farm moving instead to his house Moseley Old Hall.
The farm stayed with the Whitgreave family until its sale in 1923. During their ownership it was tenanted by various people, a number of whom made considerable contributions to the life of the village both in service and financially. William Spencer for instance left a legacy for the school children in the early 19th. century.
From 1923 the farm changed hands two or three times until finally in the latter half of the 1990’s it was bought and converted into separate dwellings. Whilst the main house was undergoing renovation, much more evidence of an earlier house, probably the house from Constance’s day, was found inside the present one.
The site now occupied by Colton Hall Farm was until the mid 17th. century where the main Manor house for the Lord of Colton Manor was situated . Unfortunately there is now nothing to see of these ancient buildings that stood on the site throughout this period but we do have some written evidence of what was there.
The Manor House site was on a hill a little distance away from the village itself . We know that this manor was occupied by the DeWasteney family shortly after the Conquest. We know that there was a mill down on the river and some time in the 13th. century a deer park was established.
The first evidence we have of an actual house is in the 17th. century. The manor and hall passed by marriage into the Gresley family in the 14th. century and was sold eventually in 1610 to a relative, Sir Walter Aston of Tixall for the sum of £16,000 – a large amount for those days. We have documentary evidence from a contemporary of Sir Walter-Sampson Erdswicke who wrote the first history of Staffordshire in the early 17th. Century, as to what the house looked like. He states that the ancient house was of considerable size. It was reputed” to contain 80 rooms, 52 according to tradition were lodgings” (Erdswicke).
Sir Walter Aston was a man of great distinction in the royal court being the Ambassador to Spain for James 1 and would require properties with prestige to befit his position. He also owned close by Tixall Hall but spent quite a lot of the time when he was not in Spain, at Colton. It was whilst he was living there that he was created Lord Aston of Forfar for his services to the crown. Younger family members often resided there in his absence. It appears to have been surrounded by park land evidence of which we have from field names going down towards the nearby River Trent.
This house burnt down sometime in the 1640’s reputedly due to the carelessness of a servant. This leads us to believe that it was a substantial timbered manor house possibly on stone foundations. There is no evidence of a moat. All there is now is a raised area in front of the present buildings which suggests it was the site of this hall.
A job for Time Team perhaps!
Ref. Sampson Erdswicke A History of Staffordshire
The Malt House
|We do not know when the Malt House was built but there is evidence inside of a crooked frame building which dates it to possibly the 16th. century if not earlier.
It has been occupied by many people over the years. We have evidence from census records that corn sellers and maltsers have occupied it. For many years the Yates’s, a well known farming family were the tenants. From the 1970’s to the 1990’s M.P. Nicholas Budgen owned it.
It is now no longer a working farm but remains a family home.
Little Hay Manor House
|The house on this site today is a 19th. century building but the occupation of this site is ancient. Little Hay is believed to be the smallest of the three manors recorded in the Domesday survey of Colton which means that it was occupied in Saxon times. The name means ‘the small enclosure’. In 1322 it passed to Richard de Blithfield and by his daughter’s marriage it passed to the distinguished Bagot family of neighbouring Bagots Bromley and Blithfield. It remained in this family’s ownership until the early 20th. century. The picture shows the Elizabethan house that was on the site before its demolition to make way for the present house. It was sketched by a villager. The chimney of this earlier house is still standing in the garden of the present one.
|The Bagot family held many noble positions throughout the generations and wielded great influence at various times in Staffordshire. They owned a considerable amount of land in Colton and had a great deal to do with the affairs of the village. The Manor Court for the village was held at Little Hay. The heir to the Bagot estates always resided at Blithfield and Little Hay was occupied mainly by tenant farmers.All that is now left of the Earlier Manor House.Little Hay passed into different ownership and is still run as a working farm.
All that is now left of the Earlier Manor House. Little Hay passed into different ownership and is still run as a working farm.
|It is not known who built Colton House but the Queen Anne style is of the early part of the 18th. century. There is a possibility that where the present house stands is the site of the original main Colton Manor house recorded as belonging to Azeline in the Domesday record. Its proximity to the church would make this a reasonable supposition.
The present house has a fascinating history. We know that a William Pigott, a gentleman who kept harriers, lived there in the 1770’s and Lady Blount of Bellamour Hall occupied it whilst the new Bellamour Hall was being built in the late 18th. century.
In 1795 a merchant who had sugar plantations in the West Indies owned it. He died when his ship disappeared on a voyage back from St Croix in the West Indies.
In the 1851 census records for Colton, a boy’s school for boarders is being run at Colton House by a Mr. Mills. There were 18 boarders living in the house at that time but it cannot have lasted for long because they are not there at the next census. One wonders if it was the sort of boys school that was made famous by Charles Dickens in his classic story Nicholas Nickleby!
Perhaps its most celebrated occupant came there in the 1890’s – Frederic Bonney. Bonney had been born in Rugeley but as a young man had gone out to work with his elder brother in Australia. He worked in the region north of Adelaide where the pastoralists had established huge sheep stations. He was a keen photographer and in his 20 or so years living and working there, he took many photographs particularly of the Aborigines but also of the settlers and places around him. He also took notes about the customs and practices of the Aborigines. Upon his death his family deposited his collection with the museum of Australia in Sydney. His photographs and notes were acknowledged as some of the earliest and most informative of that period and formed the basis of educational textbooks on the subject for many new young Australians.
On his return to England he tenanted Colton House for a number of years. He was a keen gardener as well as a photographer. Across the road from the house he created an arboretum around the lakes that used to be opposite the house. Some of the trees he planted can still be seen. He also created a garden to the side of the house. He continued with his photography and took many beautiful photographs of Colton and its residents and events happening at the time. We still have some of these and are an important visual record of life in Colton village at the end of the 19th. century.
In the World War II the army occupied Colton House and did not treat it kindly! After the war the house was converted into 6 flats and some of the people in the village have lived there . In the early 1970’s it was bought by a developer who stripped it of lots of its finer features, built houses in its courtyard and sold a substantial part of its gardens. In the mid 1970’s it was bought by its present owners and is slowly being lovingly and carefully restored to its former glory!