ALTON VILLAGE

Grid Ref: SK 073 423
2 August 2003 & 24 August 2008

Lock=uo spacer St. Peter's
The village lock-up dates from 1819   St. Peter's, Alton
Norman Arcade   Wall painting
View north west in the nave showing the Norman arcade   Detail of wall painting above the Norman arcade
Norman Castle   Gothic mansion
Ruins of the Norman Castle   Gothic Mansion by Pugin
Chapel   Hospital
End elevation of the chapel   Hospital of St. John with chapel to the left
Pugin Chapel   Alton Discovery Centre
View of south side of the Chapel (2008)   The Discovery Centre (2008)
Master's house   Hospital
The School Master's house adapted from two cottages   The right wing of the Hospital complex

 

Most people have heard of or visited the theme park at Alton Towers but nearby is the quiet and picturesque village of Alton with an ancient parish church, the remains of a Norman Castle, a 19th century Gothic mansion and a Catholic church, both designed by Pugin, and a school. The village has three pubs and its own historic prison. There are beautiful walks in the vicinity, including a path designated the "Staffordshire Way". This area, together with Alton Towers, was the estate of the Earls of Shrewsbury. The 15th Earl died in 1827 and the 16th Earl died in 1852. He was the last of this Catholic branch of the Talbot family. The title then went Protestant cousins.

St. Peter's church has a Norman Arcade on the north side of the nave whereas the arcade at the south side is the product of 19th century restoration. Above the Norman arcade one can see evidence of late 14th century wall paintings showing the story of the Three Quick and Three Dead, partially obscured by later inscriptions. The tower is 14th century but much of the remaining exterior dates from a major rebuilding in 1830. The chancel and south chapel date from 1884-5.

On the top of the hill overlooking the River Churnet are the remains of Alton Castle built about 1175 by Bertram de Verdun, the founder of Croxden Abbey. He joined Richard the Lionheart's Crusade and died in the Holy Land. Following the Verdun family were the Furnivals, nine of whom were lord of the manor, including Gerard Furnival who died in Jerusalem in 1219 and Thomas who died at the Battle of Crecy. The Furnival heiress married a Talbot in the 15th century. John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, was mentioned as Stout Talbot by Shakespeare. He owned the castle but it was not his main residence. He was famous for 40 battles in France but was captured by Joan of Arc's forces at the battle of Patay. The castle at Alton was badly damaged in the Civil War.

The ruin is adjacent to a Gothic pile begun in 1847 for the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury by Pugin. It is four storeys high with three towers and a chapel. The roof has coloured tiles. The Hospital of St. John is on three sides of a quadrangle. It was designed by Pugin to contain a chapel, school, hall, kitchen and library together with lodgings for a school master. If you like the Gothic style of Pugin, this village and the Catholic Church in the nearby town of Cheadle, are said to be amongst his best works.

 

Sources:

The Buildings of England, Staffordshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin, 1974, ISBN 0 14 071046 9
The King's England, Staffordshire, by Arthur Mee, Hodder and Stoughton, London, first published in 1937.

I am grateful to Neil Jefferyes for pointing out that St. Peter's now has its own website with details of the church and services.

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©  Craig Thornber, England, United Kingdom    Main Site Address:  http://www.thornber.net/

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