THE COTTONS OF COMBERMERE ABBEY

Stapleton Cotton spacer Spode Design
Statue of Sir Stapleton Cotton, in Chester   Spode Design incorporating image of the statue shown left.
Courtesy and copyright of the Spode Museum Trust

 

Combermere Abbey lies between Whitchurch and Nantwich in a beautiful stretch of countryside. There was an abbey on this site founded about 1133 by Hugh de Malbanc, Lord of Nantwich. It was initially a Savignac abbey but became Cistercian. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site, with 22,000 acres, became the property of Sir George Cotton as a reward for his service to Henry VIII. He pulled down most of the abbey buildings except the abbots' lodgings. In Cheshire Country Houses, by De Figueiredo and Treuhertz, published by Phillimore in 1988, there is a five page article on the abbey. It gives a detailed description of the various phases of building and demolition, a plan of the house as it was in 1900 and pictures of the exterior and interior. English Heritage describes the north wing as being in a "parlous state" in its Buildings at Risk Register. Combermere Abbey now has its own website, which includes a map, to advertise holiday accommodation.

Sir Stapleton Cotton, the sixth baronet, was born in 1772. He became a second lieutenant in 1790, a first lieutenant in 1791 and at the age of 21 became lieutenant colonel for the 25th Light Dragoons. He was with British forces at the Cape in 1795, and in 1799 served in Madras against Tippo Sahib including actions at Malavelly and Seringapatam. Later he was involved at Talavera. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1812 and fought at Torres Vedras. Under Wellington's command he distinguished himself at the Battle of Salamanca. On 17 May 1814, he was made Baron Combermere on his return to England and given a reward of £20,000. In 1817 he was Governor General of Barbados and in 1825 Commander in Chief in India where he captured the fort of Bhurtapore. Sir Stapleton was created Viscount Combermere on 2 December 1826 and became a field marshall in 1855. He was a colonel in the 1st Life Guards and Constable of the Tower of London. Viscount Combermere lived to the age of 92; he was in military service for 73 years and fought in 17 battles.

An equestrian statue of Sir Stapleton stands on a plinth near the gates to Chester Castle. He was noted for being vain and was caricatured by Thackeray in his work The Book of Snobs as Sir George Tufto, whose breast sparkled with innumerable decorations. In the park at Combermere is an obelisk commemorating Stapleton Cotton, and there is also a memorial at Wrenbury church.

Sir Stapleton Cotton's son by his second wife succeeded to the title in 1865. He was Sir Wellington Henry Stapleton Cotton, Bart., and 2nd Viscount, appointed a cornet in the 7th Hussars in 1837, served in Canada in 1840, became a colonel, was in the 7th Dragoon Guards, appointed secretary to the master general of Ordnance in 1852 and was at one time the MP for Carrickfergus. He was born in 1818 and died in 1891.

In 1919, Sir Kenneth Crossley, founder of Crossley Cars bought the estate, which then amounted to 5000 acres. In 1992, his great-granddaughter Sarah Callander Beckett inherited the estate from her mother, Penelope Lindsay.

 

COTTON OF COMBERMERE

The Cotton family traced its descent from Sir Hugh de Coton of Coton in Shropshire in the time of Henry III (1216-1272). Sir George Cotton, an esquire of Henry VIII, was knighted by him and granted Combermere in 1541. The estate then passed through successive generations, Richard and George to Sir Thomas Cotton where our tree begins below to show family connection in the 17th century preceding our main interest in the 18th and 19th centuries. This family was very prolific and produced in addition to Sir Stapleton Cotton a number of admirals, generals, and clergymen in the 19th century. The heirs to the Combermere estate are shown in bold type.

 

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Tomb of Sir Stapleton Cotton   The top of the tomb
 
Central panel   Inscription on base of Sir Stapleton Cotton's tomb

 

The photographs above were taken at St. Margaret's church in Wrenbury on 14 August 2013. They show the three parts of the memorial to Sir Stapleton Cotton. In the central panel, above the kneeling angel is a list of Sir Stapleton Cotton's battles over more than 30 years starting with the Napoleonic Wars with many battles in the Peninsula War and including the West Indies, India and South Africa: Flanders, 1793; Cape of Good Hope; Maclavelly; Seringapatam; Douro; Talavera; Busaco; Leira; Villa Garcia; Fuentes d'Honor; El Bodon; Castrejon; Salamanca; Orthez; Toulouse; West Indies; Bhurtpore, 1825

Sources

Cheshire Country Houses by de Figueiredo and Treuhertz.
Cheshire Heroes by W. I. Wild in Cheshire Notes and Queries, Vol 1, page 179, December 1896.
Ormerod's History of Cheshire, 2nd edition.

For the Spode design incorporating Sir Stapleton Cotton, I am grateful to Pam Woolliscroft, Curator of the Spode Museum Trust, Church St., Stoke on Trent, ST4 1BX, England.  It comes from a pattern book of 1871

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