WESTON PARK

Grid Ref: SJ 807 106
4 July 1999, 30 July 2000 & 3 April 2016

 

Weston Park
The frontage in April 2016
Gardens
Daffodils round the lake in April 2017

 

Garden spacer church
 South Front of eleven bays   The Orangery and Church
Stables   Cottages
Stable Block   Cottages near the lake

 

Weston Park is a delightful house in an idyllic setting of 1000 acres of parkland. It is open to the public in the summer months and details can be found from the house's own website. On my first visit I found the gardens and grounds so interesting that I did not see inside the house but it was worth a second trip just to see the pictures. Capability Brown was responsible for landscaping the park when he was employed by Sir Henry Bridgeman in 1765/6. In the grounds there is a lake and ponds with an elegant bridge and the Temple of Diana designed by Paine.

The house was built in 1671 by Sir Thomas and Lady Wilbraham on the site of a medieval deer park. The east side was made the main entrance in 1865 and the porch added. The rooms are in styles ranging from the 17th century to the 19th century; the Drawing Room was designed by James Paine in 1760. The Orangery at the west end was built in 1865. The stables to the east of the house were constructed in 1688 and are linked to the house by a wing built in 1865.

The church of St. Andrew is the parish church for Weston-under-Lizard and ajoins the south side of the house. It has a 14th century east wall but was largely rebuilt by the Wilbrahams in 1700. The tower is 15th or 16th century. The church contains two cross-legged wooden effigies, probably from the 14th century. The church was restored by Street in 1869/70.

Weston Park is the seat of the Earl of Bradford. The family tree is complicated by the fact that the Earldom of Bradford became extinct and was recreated and on three occasions the Weston estate has passed through the female line. The families involved have been Mytton, Wilbraham, Newton and Bridgeman.

Weston was held by the Edward Mytton (died 1638) and went to his daughter Elizabeth (1631-1705), who married Sir Thomas Wilbraham Bart. Elizabeth is believed to have designed the core of the present house. This couple had two daughters, Grace and Mary Wilbraham who were co-heiresses. Mary (1661-1737) married Richard Newport, 2nd Earl of Bradford (1644-1723).

The Newports were a Shropshire family and the title related to the Hundreds of North and South Bradford in Shropshire not to the city in South Yorkshire.. The title of Baron Newport had been created for Sir Richard Newport (1570-1650) by Charles I in 1642 as he marched through Stafford. Sir Richard paid £6000 to purchase it. Richard married Rachel Leveson and their son, Francis Newport (1619-1708), became Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire after the Restoration. He fell out of favour in the time of James II but was back in favour with William of Orange who made him the 1st Earl of Bradford. He married Lady Diana Russell, the daughter of the 4th Earl of Bedford. Francis was also granted Shrewsbury Castle. Their son Richard was the 2nd Earl.

Richard Newport and his wife Mary Wilbraham had several children of whom two sons and two daughters survived to adulthood. The eldest son, Henry, succeeded as 3rd Earl in 1723. He died without legitimate issue in 1734 but at the time of his death he had not inherited Weston from his mother - she outlived him by three years. Henry's younger brother, Thomas, became the 4th Earl. He had suffered brain damage through a fall from a horse. He died without issue in 1762 and the earldom became extinct. Richard and Mary's eldest daughter, Lady Anne Newport (1690-1752) inherited Weston and married Sir Orlando Bridgeman the 4th Baronet (1695-1764).

The Bridgemans had been originally wealthy Devon merchants. The Rt. Rev. John Bridgeman (1577-1652) had the living of Wigan and became Bishop of Chester. He was a royalist and high church. His son, Orlando (1608-1674) became a lawyer and had various government posts. He presided over the trial of the regicides and became a baronet. He was removed from office by the jealousy of the Earl of Shaftesbury and is said to have put the Royal Seal on documents relating to provision for his mistress. On being requested to return the seal, he melted it down. Orlando's son John (1631-1710) became 2nd Baronet and his son, also called John (1667-1747), was 3rd Baronet. His son, Orlando had tried to marry Lady Diana Newport. However, she married the 6th Earl Mountrath, so he married her sister, Lady Ann Newport.

Orlando and Ann had a son, Henry Bridgeman (1725-1800) who was the 5th Baronet and was given the title 1st Baron Bradford. In the next generation, Orlando Bridgeman (1762-1825) became the 1st Earl of Bradford by its second creation in 1815 during the Regency period. The Guidebook at Weston claims that Orlando was the sole witness at the marriage of the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert in 1785. However, it is known that he stood outside on guard while four others were witnesses inside. This marriage broke two acts of Parliament, one of which required the consent of the monarch for a marriage of an heir under the age of 25 and one which required the permission of the cabinet for any marriage of the heir to the throne.

Orlando, the 1st Earl, was interested in developments in agriculture. Weston became the main family seat. Orlando's son George, the 2nd Earl (1780-1865) purchased Tong Castle near Weston Park. His son, Orlando, the 3rd Earl (1819-1898) married the Hon. Selina Foster, daughter of the first Lord Forester. Disraeli was infatuated with her and wrote her more than 1000 letters. Selina's letters to Disraeli do not survive. However, her husband became Master of Horse for Queen Victoria. The 4th Earl was Orlando's son George, (1845-1915). The 5th Earl, Orlando (1873-1957) served in the Boer War and in the Great War and was secretary to Lord Shrewsbury and Balfour. It was Gerald, 6th Earl (1911-1981) who opened the house and grounds to the public. His son, Richard, the 7th Earl, born in 1947, is the current owner.

Sources:

Guidebook to Weston Park
Notes from Staffordshire Aristocracy, by Rose Wheat, 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 Old Parish Churches of Staffordshire
, by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, 1996, ISBN 1871731 25 8

 

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