TRENTHAM GARDENS

Grid Ref: SJ 865 409
7 February 1999 and 20 September 2003.

Loggia spacer South Front
   Loggia in the gardens   Part of the south front at Trentham with glimpse of clock tower   
Perseus   From the South West
Perseus with the head of Medussa   View from the South West

 

My pictures show Trentham just before the major redevelopment. It now has a large garden centre, shops and Ferris Wheel.

Trentham was the seat of the Duke of Sutherland but today only a few fragments of the last great house remain. The first house at Trentham was built on the site of an Augustinian Priory, which was founded about 1150. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the site was purchased by James Leveson in 1540. The earliest picture of a house there dates from 1686. It is known to have been damaged in the Civil War when the family were Royalists. The next development was in the early 18th century with a house of nine bays by Francis Smith.

The house and grounds were modified by Henry Holland and Capability Brown in the period from 1768-1778 with the house being extended from nine to fifteen bays. The house was altered again in 1810. The final major modification was by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the House of Commons. He worked on the hall between 1834 and 1849 and the cost was £260,000. However, the family did not want the hall by the early 20th century and moved out in 1907. One reason was that the river Trent had become very polluted with sewage from the Potteries from the 1860s. In addition, like all the landed families, the Sutherlands were not making as much money from agriculture and land was being sold. Moreover the land no longer had the political importance for securing votes as the number of voters increased with successive reforms of parliament. Trentham was used by Disraeli in his book Lothair, where it appears at Brentham.

Trentham was offered first to Staffordshire County Council for conversion to a college and also to Stoke on Trent as a showroom for pottery. Eventually it was pulled down in 1911, with valuable fittings being sold in the demolition sale. Items included mirrors, marble, and wood, which all went for a low price. The belvedere went to Sandon Hall. In Disraeli's book Lothair, Trentham Hall appears as Brenton. It is believed that Queen Victoria's house, Osborne, on the Isle of White was modelled in part on Trentham. The ballroom in Trentham Gardens was built after the house was demolished when the site became a public park. It was taken over by the Bank of England in the Second World War. Now it is used for a variety of events including craft, antique and computer fairs. Over the years there have been a number of plans to develop Trentham Gardens for hotel, sports and leisure facilities. The 1000 acre site has great potential with its lake and surrounding woodlands but for the present it remains undeveloped. The park is open to the public and there are footpaths through the woods and around the lake. One can walk to the obelisk commemorating the 1st Duke of Sutherland - a monument set on a hill which is easily seen from the A34 south of Trentham. It was erected in 1836 and the bronze statue was by Chantrey.

 

Plaque spacer Clock Tower
Plaque on the site       View from the courtyard on the north side   
Entrance   Sculpture
Armorial bearings above the entrance at the west end   Detail of sculpted figure

The inscription on the memorial stone reads as follows:

This memorial stone erected by Cromartie, Fourth Duke of Sutherland, AD 1913, marks the site of Trentham Hall and of the following incidents connected with this place. In the seventh century Trentham formed part of the demesne surrounding the residence at Bury Bank of Wulphure, King of Mercia. During the reigne of Wulphure AD 659-674 one of the first Christian Churches of Staffordshire was erected here by St. Werburgh, the daughter of the King.  St. Werburgh also added a nunnery. At the Conquest in AD 1066, King William I resumed possession of the Royal Demesne of Wuphure and afterward granted part of it as a manor to the Earls of Chester who before AD 1150 replaced the early church and nunnery of St. Werburgh with a new church and a priory. At the Reformation, King Henry VIII again exercised his right to the ancient royal manor and although the priory was dissolved the church was preserved and it remained unaltered until re-built by George Granville, 2nd Duke of Sutherland AD 1843 from a design by Sir Charles Barry, RA. The original pillars of the nave of the Norman church were carefully preserved and restored on their ancient site. After the suppression of the priory, AD 1538, the King sold the property AD 1535 (sic) to the Duke of Suffolk and it was afterwards purchased by James Leveson in 1540, and the first Trentham Hall was either formed out of the old priory buildings or built on their site. An ancient plan dated 1599 shews it under the name of the Manor of Trentham and this was the residence occupied by Admiral Sir Richard Leveson for some years before his death in 1605. In AD 1634 a new hall in the Elizabethan style of architecture was erected on the site of the ancient priory by Sir Richard Leveson, KB. In AD 1690 the Elizabethan house was removed and the third Trentham Hall was built by Sir William Leveson Gower, Baronet. This hall was much altered and enlarged by the first Marquis of Stafford and the first Duke of Sutherland until 1834, when it was re-constructed by the 2nd Duke of Sutherland in the Italian style from designs by Sir Charles Barry, RA. After the closing of Trentham Hall as a residence in 1905 it was offered for purposes of higher education

(1st)   To the County Council of Staffordshire
(2nd) To the Mayor and Council of the Federated Borough of Stoke-on-Trent
but acceptance failing the house was removed

The Dukes of Sutherland.

The Sutherland family is of interest as it was one of the wealthiest in England. It rose to prominence in Yorkshire and Staffordshire and then acquired vast tracts of land in Scotland. It starts with two families, the Levesons and the Gowers. Successive generations acquired new titles until the creation of the Dukedom of Sutherland as shown by the emboldened words below.

The Levesons were a family of wool merchants from Wolverhampton. They acquired monastic lands at the dissolution of the monasteries and had Lilleshall in Shropshire and Trentham in Staffordshie from about 1540. Sir Richard Leveson (1598-1661) had a daughter Frances who married in 1668, Sir Thomas Gower of Stittenham in Yorkshire. Sir Richard and Frances had a son, William Leveson Gower (pronounced Looson-Gore).

Sir William Leveson-Gower (later Baron Gower) married Lady Jane Granville, daughter of the Earl of Bath, and had a son John (1675-1709). He was created a baron by Queen Anne, probably for his help in trying to impeach the Duke of Portland. He married the daughter of the Duke of Rutland. He was succeeded by his son John.

Sir John Leveson-Gower, 2nd Lord Gower (died 1754) was created 1st Viscount Trentham and 1st Earl Gower in 1746 for supporting the Hanoverians in the Jacobite rebellion. He married first Lady Evelyn Pierpoint and had 10 children. Later he married Penelope the daughter of John Stonehouse; she had one child who died in infancy. Finally he married Mary the daughter of the 6th Earl of Thanet and had a further four children. He changed sides from Tory to Whig when one of his daughters married the Duke of Bedford. It was this act that led Samuel Johnson to define a Gower as a turncoat. A second daughter of the 1st Earl Gower became the Duchess of Marlborough. His third son, Granville, succeeded as the 2nd Earl as his two elder brothers had died.

Granville Leveson-Gower (1721-1803) the 2nd Earl Gower was educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford. He became an MP for Bishop's Castle, then Westminster and later Lichfield. He was lord of the Admiralty from 1749 to 1751. When his father died, Granville entered the House of Lords and held a number of posts including lord privy seal from 1755-1757 and president of the council from 1767-1769. In 1786 he was created Marquess of Stafford. He married three times. His second wife was Lady Louisa Egerton, sister of the Duke of Bridgwater. On the death of Bridgwater, who had no direct heirs, Louisa's son had the proceeds from the estate for one generation. Thereafter the income went not to her eldest son but to her second son.

Granville was succeeded in 1803 by his son, George Granville Leveson-Gower (1758-1833) 2nd Marquess of Stafford, later Duke of Sutherland. He married Elizabeth the Countess of Sutherland (1765-1839) who inherited a million acres in Scotland. She was the countess in her own right because of the way this peerage had been set up in the first place although this had to be established in a court case. In 1833, the year of his death, George was made Duke of Sutherland, the title being chosen for him by William IV. His wife was known as the Countess Duchess.

George was educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford. He became an MP for Newcastle under Lyme in 1778 and 1780 and MP for Staffordshire from 1787-98. He was ambassador to Paris from 1790-2, during the French Revolution. In addition to possessing his huge estate in Sutherland through his wife, he inherited the Bridgwater estates from his uncle, the last Duke of Bridgwater, and by the death of his father, the estates of Stittenham (Yorkshire), Trentham (Staffordshire), Wolverhampton and Lilleshall (Shropshire). George became a controversial figure because of the Highland Clearances, which were undertaken in the period from 1812 to 1820. However, he made substantial improvements in Sutherland by building 450 miles of roads and 134 bridges between 1812 and 1832. He was created Duke of Sutherland in 1833 just before he died. The 1st Duke has been called in a book title, The Leviathan of Wealth. He is believed to have had an annual income of £200,000.

In 1827 George purchased Stafford House in London. This property, next to Clarence House, was built in the 1820s for George IV's brother the Duke of York. George bought a 100 year lease on the property. In 1913 it was sold to Sir Harold Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, the founder of the business that became Unilever. He changed its name to Lancaster House and then gave the remainder of the lease to the government. It is now used by the government for such events as entertaining foreign leaders.

George Granville Leveson Gower (1786-1861) was the 2nd Duke. He married in 1823 Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana Howard (1806-1868) the daughter of the 6th Earl of Carlisle. She was brought up at Castle Howard; her grandfather was the Duke of Devonshire. She was mistress of the robes for various periods between 1837 to 1861 and a great friend of Queen Victoria. Harriet was a driving force behind the rebuilding of Trentham by Barry. It is estimated that the couple spent £60,000 on Dunrobin in Scotland, £50,000 on Cliveden, £275,000 on Stafford House as well as £260,000 on Trentham. The 2nd Duke was very deaf and so did not become involved in politics. Harriet was only 17 when they married and she had 11 children, 8 of whom survived. Three of their daughters married Dukes.

George Granville William Leveson-Gower (1828-1892) was the 3rd Duke. His first wife was Ann Hay-Mackenzie the Countess of Cromartie (1829-1888). He succeeded to the dukedom in 1861 having been MP for Sutherlandshire from 1852. The 3rd Duke was having an affair with Mary Blair nee Mitchell before his first wife died. He married Mary only three months after becoming a widower - a scandal at the time. On his death in 1892 he tried to leave Mary that part of the estate that was not entailed. The 4th Duke challenged the will. Mary was sent to prison for 6 weeks for contempt of court for burning a document. In the end she agreed to be paid off with the sum of £500,000 in cash. For this the Bank of England printed 500 notes of £1000 denomination to make the transfer and after it was complete the notes were destroyed.

Cromartie Sutherland Leveson-Gower (1852-1913), the 4th Duke, married Millicent St. Clair Erskine (1867-1955). His estate provided much employment locally including part-time work when the family were in residence and entertaining. The couple had four children, the first died aged 2. Millicent married twice after the death of her husband. It was Millicent who attracted the name of "Meddling Millie" for her activity in supporting women's welfare in the potteries and the abolition of the use of lead in glazes and paints that caused so much ill-health and premature death. She was parodied by Arnold Bennet in The Card as "interfering Iris, the Countess of Chell".

George Granville Sutherland Leveson-Gore (1888-1963) the 5th Duke married twice but had no children. His younger brother, Alistaire, who died in his 20s had only a daughter, Elizabeth Millicent, who inherited the title of 24th Countess of Sutherland.

Sources:

Dictionary of National Biography.
Notes from Staffordshire Aristocracy, by Rose Wheat, a course given over six weekends at Wedgwood Memorial College, winter 1998/9.
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.

 

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