Shugborough Hall

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Shugborough Hall today

Shugborough is a country estate in Great Haywood, Staffordshire, England, 4 miles from Stafford on the edge of Cannock Chase. It comprises a country house, kitchen garden, and model farm. Owned by the National Trust and maintained by the leaseholder, Staffordshire County Council, it previously belonged to the Earls of Lichfield, the Anson family.


Shugborough Hall in the 1820s.

The Shugborough estate was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield until the Dissolution of the Monasteries around 1540 and thereafter passed through several hands until it was purchased in 1624 by William Anson, a lawyer, of Dunston, Staffordshire[1]

In about 1693 his grandson William Anson (1656–1720) demolished the old house and created a new mansion.[1] The entrance front then to the west, comprised a balustraded three-storey, seven-bayed central block . In about 1748 his great grandson Thomas Anson commissioned architect Thomas Wright to remodel the house, which was extended with flanking two-storey, three-bayed pavilions linked to the central block by pedimented passages.[1] At the turn of the 18th century the house was further altered and extended by architect Samuel Wyatt, when the pavilions and passages were incorporated into the main building and a new porticoed entrance front with ten Doric order pillars was created at the east.[1] for Thomas Anson, the 1st Viscount Anson and his wife Anne Margaret Coke, daughter of Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, whom he married in 1794. Styled Viscountess Anson in 1806, Anne Margaret Coke Anson died in London in 1843 and was buried at Shugborough.

Around 1750 the architect James "Athenian" Stuart, created a number of follies and monuments in the grounds. These include the Chinese House (a Chinese-style pagoda), the Triumphal Arch based on Hadrian's and the Doric Temple (all grade I listed) as well as the Temple of the Winds (based on one in Greece) and Shepherd's Monument (grade II*) and the Cat's Monument (grade II). Other grade I listed features in the gardens are the Dark Lantern and the red painted iron footbridge near the Chinese House.

The grounds are connected to the village of Great Haywood by the Essex Bridge, built in the Middle Ages, and contain numerous sculptures in addition to Stuart's follies.

Nearby is Milford Hall, the estate of the Levett Haszard family, who are related to the Ansons and who sit on the board at Shugborough.[2]

Family History[edit]

Illustration from French volume illustrating George Anson's voyage around the world

The Anson family who purchased the estate in the 17th century from Thomas Whitby of Great Haywood, Staffordshire produced some famous men, including Admiral George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, George Anson (British soldier), General George Anson (1769-1849), Thomas Anson (MP), Dean of Chester Frederick Anson and his sons George Edward Anson and Frederick Anson, Canon of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Adelbert Anson was the first Bishop of Qu’Appelle. Seven ships in the Royal Navy have been christened HMS Anson, honouring the first Baron Anson's circumnavigation in the 1740s.

The house contains a collection of photographs by the house's recent resident, the royal photographer, the late Patrick Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield (1939-2005). Through his mother Anne (1917–1980), he was a first cousin, once removed, of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, his mother having been a niece of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother. The 5th Earl of Lichfield married in 1975 Lady Leonora Grosvenor, daughter of the 5th Duke of Westminster. After divorcing in 1986, the Countess of Lichfield retained her title and has not remarried.

Admiral George Anson, the 1st and 5th Earl of Lichfield, and several other members of the Anson family of Shugborough Hall are buried at St Michael and All Angels Church in Colwich. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Earl of Lichfield are buried at St Stephen's Church in Great Haywood.[3]

The Shepherd's Monument[edit]

The Shugborough inscription, still unsolved

The Shepherd's Monument has been internationally well-known since 1982, when the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail drew attention to the mysterious Shugborough inscription. Carved by Peter Scheemakers,[4] this has been called one of the world's top uncracked ciphertexts.[5][6] Theories have abounded, including some which suggest it may indicate the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

A. J. Morton offered a solution to the code in January 2011. The letters O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V. & D.M., the Irvine Times explained, were probably created for, by, or in memorial of, Viscount Anson and his wife Mary Vernon-Venables.[7]

In recent years, codebreakers from the National Codes Center at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire have tried unsuccessfully to decipher it.[8] Before them, it is said that Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens also tried, and similarly failed.

Numerous explanations have been put forward, linking the code to the Priory of Sion, the Holy Grail and UFO's.

One more modest and romantic theory is that the inscription is a secret message between two lovers.[9]

Noted guests[edit]

Ornamental copy of Nicolas Poussin's Arcadia at Shugborough

In 1832, the future Queen Victoria, then 13, visited Shugborough with her mother.[10]

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, stayed in Great Haywood between October 1915 and June 1916 [11] and in his story 'The Tale of the Sun and the Moon' (The Book of Lost Tales 1) he writes about a gnome called Gilfanon who owned an ancient house "...the House of a Hundred Chimneys, that stands nigh the bridge of Tavrobel". Tavrobel he describes as a village near the confluence of two rivers. If you stand on the Essex Bridge, you can see where the river Sow meets the river Trent, and Shugborough Hall has about 80 chimneys.

Another fantasy author, Mark Chadbourn, features Shugborough and the mysterious bas-relief on the Shepherd's Monument in his novel The Hounds of Avalon, part of The Dark Age sequence. In the novel, the gardens provide a point of access to the magical Otherworld of Celtic mythology.

Nicolas Poussin's Arcadia and the inscription also figure prominently in the fiction work by Steve Berry, The Alexandria Link. They are used to find the location of the Library of Alexandria.

The Present Day[edit]

Following the death of Thomas Edward Anson, 4th Earl of Lichfield in 1960, the estate was gifted to the National Trust in lieu of death duties.[1] It was immediately leased to Staffordshire County Council, who manage and maintain it on behalf of the National Trust. The family resided in private apartments in the house until April 2010. Following the death of Patrick Lichfield on 11 November 2005 the private apartments were opened to the public in March 2011 where they can be viewed during a visit to the house.

The grounds and mansion house are open to the public. The attraction is marketed as "The Complete Working Historic Estate", which includes a working model farm museum dating from 1805 complete with a working watermill, kitchens, a dairy, a tea room, and rare breeds of farm animals. The walled garden, also dating from 1805, was restored in 2006 and also forms part of the attraction.

In addition, the house contains the historic servants' quarters and, within these, the Staffordshire County Museum,[12] including a brewery.[12] Originally restored in 1990, the brewery is England's only log-fired brewery that still produces beer commercially. Previously used only on special occasions, the brewhouse has been a working exhibit since 2007, operated by Titanic Brewery.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Shugborough by Gervase Jackson-Stops for the National Trust (1980)
  2. ^ The Genealogy of the Existing British Peerage and Baronetage: Containing the Family Histories of the Nobility, Edmund Lodge, Norroy King of Arms, London, 1859
  3. ^ Memorial Inscriptions of Great Haywood, Staffordshire: St Stephen's Churchyard, accessed 1 October 2012
  4. ^ John Martin Robinson, The Architecture of Northern England, page 263 (Macmillan, 1986). ISBN 978-0333373965
  5. ^ "Top 10 Uncracked Codes". The List Universe. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  6. ^ Belfield, Richard (August 2007). The Six Unsolved Ciphers: Inside the Mysterious Codes That Have Confounded the World's Greatest Cryptographers. Ulysses Press. ISBN 1-56975-628-7. 
  7. ^ J. McNee, "Irvine Historian May Have Solved Ancient Puzzle", Irvine Times Jan 26 2011 p.1 & 12
  8. ^ New Puzzle for Code Breakers, BBC News,
  9. ^ Bell, David (2005). "12". Staffordshire Tales of Murder & Mystery. Murder & Mystery. Countryside Books. p. 108. ISBN 1-85306-922-1. 
  10. ^ Royal Upstairs Downstairs: Shugborough Hall
  11. ^ "Great Haywood" by David Bratman, in Michael D.C. Drout (editor), J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment, page 257 (Routledge, 2007). ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0
  12. ^ a b "Museums". Staffordshire County Council. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "Titanic Brewery". Titanic Brewery. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°48′00″N 2°00′47″W / 52.8000°N 2.0130°W / 52.8000; -2.0130