|St. John the Baptist, Aldford||The Church Cross|
|The Nave||Panel of pulpit with emblem of St. John|
|The mound of the motte and bailey castle||The Village Hall|
|Estate houses with elaborate chimneys||The Grosvenor Arms|
|Bridge over Aldford Brook||The Dee Bridge at Aldford|
On a fine summer's day, Aldford looks like a film set for a Miss Marple story. The houses and gardens are all in perfect order. There is a church, village hall, post office and the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle. The public house is the Grosvenor Arms, dating from 1867, which may at one time have refreshed the ploughman as he homeward trod his weary way. Now it caters for a more fashionable clientele with black pudding and Lancashire cheese fritters served with plum and apple chutney.
Aldford is named for the old ford that crossed the Dee. It was on the Roman Watling Street. Although not mentioned in the Domesday survey, the area must have been of some importance as a defensive point for the ford. Ormerod, in his History of Cheshire, considers that it must have formed part of the Bigot estates, which included the nearby village of Farndon. By the time of Henry II (1154-1189) there was a Robert de Aldford who married the daughter of Richard Fitz Eustace, Baron of Halton. It is thought that the castle probably dated from this period. The fee of Aldford was held under the Earl of Chester by Richard de Aldford in the reign of King John (1199-1216). Some time between 1208 and 1225, the fee and castle passed to Sir John Arderne, son of Richard de Harderna. The manor passed down the Arderne family until Matild de Arderne, the daughter and heir of John and Margaret de Arderne, married Thomas de Stanley, the third son of Sir John de Stanley of Lathom and Knowsley, who is mentioned in a deed of 1434. The manor remained with the Stanley family for about 100 years. (See below for details of the Stanley family and the Stockport page for details of the Arderne family.)
Aldford may seem quiet now but two of its Lords were executed for involvement with leading affairs of state in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.. The manor was seized by King Henry VII in 1495 following Sir William Stanley's execution for supposed complicity in the rebellion of Perkin Warbeck, and was then purchased some time after 1526 by Sir William Brereton, seventh son of Sir Randle Brereton of Shocklach. Sir William Brereton was chamberlain of Chester, and groom of the chamber to Henry VIII. He was beheaded 17 May 1536 for suspected dalliance with Anne Boleyn. The manor was forfeited to the crown and later Queen Mary sold it to Sir Edward Fitton and Robert Tatton. The next stages are very complicated. The manor passed by the will of the last Sir Edward Fitton to his nephew, Charles Lord Gerard, and from one of his heirs, the wife of Lord Mohun, it passed later to Lord Mohun's second wife and was sold by her third husband, to Sir Richard Grosvenor of Eaton (1689-1732)
The modern appearance of the village is a consequence of it being completely rebuilt, along with the church, in the middle of the 19th century by Richard Grosvenor, the 2nd Marquess of Westminster, on whose Eaton Estate it lies. The architect for both church and houses was John Douglas. Date stones can be seen on the cottages, many in the 1850s and some later in the 19th century. The church was consecrated on 1 May 1866. It has a spire with wooden shingles, added ten years after the church was consecrated; it was damaged by lightning in 1957 and repaired by public subscription.
Inside the church the columns of the nave, the font and the pulpit are made of grey Derbyshire marble. The north chapel, formerly known as Lord Westminster's chapel but now the Lady Chapel, has stained glass by Burne Jones. Many of the memorials in the church come from the earlier building. Over the door of the porch on the inside is an ancient stone that was found upside down in the 14th century tower when it was demolished. It is a relic of an even earlier church.
There is a list of rectors at the base of the tower, going back to Gilbertus de Arderne, instituted about 1300.
Like most church crosses in Cheshire, the one at Aldford was broken during the Civil War. It was restored and bears a plaque with the following inscription, "To the Honour and Glory of God and in pious memory of Hugh Lupus, Duke of Westminster, this ancient cross is restored by some who loved him, 1901."
Among the monuments in the church is one to Lieut. Job Watson Royle, who "in the prime of youth and beloved by his brother officers" fell at the assault and capture of Badajos on 6 April 1812. Lieut. Royle was the son of Thomas Royle, Esq., of Chester and Margaret, his wife, who lived at Churton Lodge in the parish of Aldford. The memorial also commemorates his brother, Vernon Royle, who died 16 March 1841 aged 43. Badajos was the scene of more than one siege in the Peninsula War. An account can be found in Arthur Bryant's books "Years of Victory, 1802-1812" and "The Age of Elegance" published by R. and B. Clarke, Edinburgh, 1954. The following is a very brief summary of the engagement abstracted from this source, giving a glimpse of the scene the night that Lieut. Royle was killed.
Badajoz was held by nearly 5000 veteran troops, under General Phillipon, who was experienced in fortification. Breaches in the walls made by canon fire were defended with mines and obstacles. Wellington, using 7500 men of the 4th and Light Divisions made an attack on the late evening of 6 April. The leading troops were blown up by the mined defences but those following leapt into the ditch of the fortifications and attempted to scale the defences with ladders. Hundreds fell in a storm of grape shot, some were drowned in the ditch in the darkness, others killed by exploding mines, grenades and powder barrels. The breaches in the walls were cleared three times by bayonet charges but could not be taken. The Light Division lost two thirds of its complement. The 95th regiment lost 22 officers. Meanwhile, Picton, commanding the Third Division had been given the task of taking the main castle by climbing 100 ft sheer walls with ladders. At midnight, Wellington called off the attack of the Light Division unaware that Picton had already captured the castle. As the men of the 4th and Light Divisions fell back, news arrived that Picton's men were inside the walls. They had sustained heavy losses as their ladders were thrown back into the ditch and endured withering cross fire but at last, clambering over dead comrades on ladders slippery with blood, they reached the top, cleared the ramparts and swarmed into the fort. A detachment of General Walker's brigade of Leith's 5th Division also managed an ascent of the walls away from the main focus of fighting and much of the brigade were able to enter the town. Their appearance behind the French defenders of the breached walls led to the collapse of resistance.
There is also a monument to Frances the daughter of Robert Lee of Wincham.
The Stanley family is very extensive and has been described in detail in a recent book by Peter Edmund Stanley entitled 'The House of Stanley from the 12th Century', a pièce de resistance of genealogy. Chapter XLII deals with the Stanleys of Elford in Staffordshire. Here were learn that Sir Thomas Stanley was the third son of Sir John Stanley of Lathom in Lancashire. Sir Thomas was High Sheriff of Staffordshire from 1433 to to 1438, and a privy councillor from 1453-54. He married firstly in 1438 to Maud the daughter and heiress of Sir John Arderne who lived from 1378-1408. As a consequence Sir Thomas acquired extensive lands of the Arderne family in Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Cheshire. The Cheshire estates were at Aldford, Nether Alderley and Etchells near Northenden. The direct male line died out in 1508 on the death of his grandson, Sir John Stanley. It is said that Henry Tudor stayed at Sir John's house at Elford en route from Lichfield to the Battle of Bosworth field at which he defeated Richard III and became Henry VII. Sir John sold the estates of Aldford, Etchells and Nether Alderley to Sir William Stanley of Holt ( see below) and these estates were forfeited to the crown in 1495. In 1602, Nether Alderley was purchased by Sir Thomas Stanley of Over Alderley. See also Ian Stanley's Family History pages.
The first small tree shows how Sir Thomas de Arderne's line ended with his granddaughter Matilda or Maud. We then continue with the Stanley line
To follow the story of Aldford in the turbulent times of the Wars of the Roses, we look next at Sir William Stanley of Holt who purchased Aldford, Nether Alderley and Etchells from Sir John Stanley of Elford. This is covered in Chapter XVIII of "The House of Stanley". Holt is on the river Dee and just over the bridge from Farndon in Cheshire.
Sir William Stanley of Holt in Denbighshire was the second son of Thomas the 1st Baron Stanley (1405-59). His elder brother was Thomas (1432-1504) who became the 2nd Baron Stanley and then the 1st Earl of Derby in 1485. Sir William supported the house of York in the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459. In 1461, Edward IV made Sir William Stanley the Chamberlain of Chester and Sheriff of Flintshire. He fought for the Yorkists at Hexham in 1466 and was given the Lordship and Castle of Skipton in Yorkshire which he subsequently exchanged for Chirk. He obtained additional land following the battle of Towton. After the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 he took the news to Queen Margaret of her son's death and then took her to Coventry.
Edward IV's successor, Richard III, courted Sir William's support by various grants of manors and by appointing him Chief Justice for North Wales and Chief Commissioner for Shropshire. Sir William was suspicious of Richard because of the disappearance of the two princes and changed his allegiance to Henry Tudor. At the Battle of Bosworth Field, Sir William Stanley rescued Henry Tudor at a critical moment in the battle, struck down the King and is said to have found his crown in a thorn bush. He handed the crown to his elder brother Thomas who put it on the head of Henry Tudor. Henry VII appointed Sir William Stanley the Lord Chamberlain and Knight of the Garter and granted him additional lands that made him the richest commoner in England. Sir William's wealth and power inevitably attracted enemies and he was disappointed that his services had not led to a peerage. In 1489 he became Constable of Caernarvon and Beaumaris, and in 1490 Henry VII gave him the Lordships of Bromfield, Chirk and the castles of Dinas Bran, Holt and Chirk in confirmation of earlier grants of the latter two by Richard III.
Sir William as Lord Chancellor was arbitrator in the dispute between Sir John Stanley of Elford and his half-brother Sir Humphrey, mentioned above. He then bought the manors of Aldford and Nether Alderley in Cheshire from Sir John. Sir William was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1494, on suspicion of being involved in the rebellion of Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the younger of the "princes in the tower" and therefore heir to Edward IV. At that time it was not known that the sons of Edward IV had both been murdered. Although Sir William had helped put Henry VII on the throne he was known to have been a strong supporter of Edward IV. He was quoted as saying that if Perkin Warbeck was the son of Edward IV he would not fight against him. This, and his unwillingness to confirm or deny his guilt, was sufficient to see him executed at the Tower on 16 February 1495. Below we look briefly at Sir William's heirs as they involve some other well-known families in Cheshire as indicated in the emboldening in the chart below.
An Introduction to Aldford and Its Church, a pamphlet available in the
church for 25 pence in 2002.
The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, incorporated with a republication of King's Vale Royal and Leycester's Cheshire Antiquities, 2nd Ed., revised and enlarged by Thomas Helsby, Esq., published by George Routledge and sons, Ludgate Hill, London, 1882. This is now available from the Family History Society of Cheshire on CD ROM. A reprint of the work was published by Eric Morten of Didsbury.
The House of Stanley from the 12th Century, by Peter Edmund Stanley, published by Pentland Press in 1998.
Back to list of families
Introduction to Cheshire Gentry