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Christleton Old Hall, Cheshire, England

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Christleton Old Hall, Cheshire, England

Although the Old Hall itself was built in 1603, there is some evidence of buildings of an earlier period on the site. Above the Tudor looking fireplace in the main hall, the original grate for which is still preserved, there are on the right oval of plaster, the emblems of the English Rose, the Unicorn and the Thistle of Scotland- hailing no doubt the Stuart Dynasty.

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On the left oval panel is a curious device of a crest, or badge of an oak tree, with an eagle preying upon an infant. There is no doubt that house was originally built in black and white timber frame style, but was encased in 1890 in red Ruabon Brick by Rector Lionel Garnett, possibly to help preserve it from decay. Parts of a tunnel still surround the building, giving rise to the legend that the tunnel was used by the Parliamentarian forces during the civil war, when the Old Hall was occupied by Sir William Brereton the commander of The Parliamentarians in Cheshire. It is said that the tunnel running east to west carved under the sandstone ridge allowed troops to move easily between the Old Hall, Manor House and Church where the main garrison would have been stationed.

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The Townsends

Towards the end of the 17th century the Old Hall was purchased by Gerard Townsend, a rising and wealthy merchant in Chester. Gerard, the son of Robert Townsend, married Sarah Stratford, widowed daughter of Randle Vause. They had many children, all baptised in Christleton; but the eldest son, another Gerard, whose son predeceased him at the age of nine months, was succeeded at Christleton by his brother Robert Townsend a very shrewd lawyer and Recorder of the City of Chester from 1754 to 1787. He was evidently a grasping and ambitious man of affairs, who married three times for profit. First to Elizabeth daughter of William Farrington of Eardshaw, by whom he had two surviving daughters Anne and Elizabeth; secondly to Anne younger daughter of John Myddleton of Chirk Castle; and thirdly to Betty, widow of Thomas Farrington, but there are no more children. His eldest daughter Anne was advantageously disposed in marriage to Mr Cecil Forester, and their son, the first Lord Forester, married the daughter of the Duke of Rutland.Elizabeth married Thomas Ince, an ensign in the Army and son of the Reverend Thomas Ince, a minor Canon of the Cathedral and later a much loved Rector of Handley. His wife Susan Robinson was the daughter of Hugh Clough of Plas Clough, and a lady of distinguished parentage from Denbighshire.

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The Servants and their earnings

Prominent in the papers found at The Old Hall were the lists of wages paid to the servants. The most important position was that of Housekeeper, and in 1790/1 Fanny Cook earned £3. 8s 8d for six months work.
Jane Ashton an assistant housekeeper £2. 15s 0d for four months.

The Cook Mary Hixon was rather poorly paid in comparison, earning just £1.7s.6d for four months, whilst Joseph Bithel a footman earned £1.15s 0d for his four months. The key post of Coachman earned Benjamin Dean £4.4s 0d, a similar sum earned by William Rogers the Head Gardener.

Other villagers and tradesmen were paid by the day, for work done on the Old Hall estate.
John Moulton 4s 6d for 4 ½ days thatching, 1s 2d for 2 ½ days ploughing.

George Moulton 5s 3d for 4 ½ days working a team of horses, and 3s 2d for 2days mucking.

Thomas Weaver earned £20 for 6 boat loads of manure, whilst Thomas Mayers was paid £13, 12s 0d for providing 17 oak gates. He also earned 12s 0d for 4 days felling trees, 12s 9d for 4 ½ days sawing trees, and 10s 7d for 4 1/2days nailing and painting.

Richard Williams; 3days labour 5s 0d, 1s for a 100bricks, 5s 0d for a load of sand.

George Lunt 10s 0d for 3 days slating roofs and chimneys, whilst Thomas Lunt his brother was paid for 7days work for Mrs Ince 14s 0d, with additional labour at 8d a day. Also 13s 6d for ploughing for Mrs Ince, and Is 6d for a day holding the plough.

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Funerals - People and rituals involved:

It seems that funerals were a great expense for the family when someone close died. There were also many rituals to be carried out and paid for, including providing suitable clothing for the mourners. The most detailed accounts I have, relate to the funeral of Robert Townsend in 1791.
In this case Robert had died in Liverpool and a team of men were sent to collect his body and later take his body to church. His body had been laid in St George’s Church in the centre of Liverpool, a fine Georgian building, near to the area where the gentry lived and carried out business.[Rodney Street]

To John Barry for labour and attending the funeral. 2s 6d To George Moulton for labour and carrying him to church 2s 6d. To John Radcliffe £3. 3s.0d for oak coffin. To Mr Barton £2.12s 0d for black coffin. To Mr Roper £ 5. 5s 0d for lead coffin. The family Doctor was involved; To Dr Brandreth £5.5s 0d for attendance.

To George Wilkinson Painter. For painting of achievements 6coats £5.11s 6d 18 silk escutcheons £4.14s.0d 8 crests £1. 0s.0d Carrying the body. For hearse to Liverpool and return £ 8.1s.6d Turnpike & Labour £ 7 9s 6d For chase to Frodsham £ 12s 0d

St George’s Church Liverpool For tolling bell at & 6 porters 13s 6d.

From Robert Yoxhall Blacksmith. 4 shoes for bay mare 1s 4d 8 shoes for 2 coach horses (steel) 4s 4d 4 shoes for grey gelding 1s 4d To remove coach horse shoe 2d To a bar on a shoe of coach horse 4d 4 shoes on grey gelding 1s 4d 8 shoes on coach horses (steel) 4s 4d 4 shoes for grey gelding 1s 4d Total 14s 6d

Bill from Messrs Faulkner / Larden To boddying a gown 2s.0d 50pairs of gloves for funeral £7.7s.0d 3 gowns and coats for servants 12s.0d Silk banding 1s 0d 18yds black cloth £4.14s 6d 3 ¾ yds ravens black cloth £3. 9s 4d 5 ¼ yds Rumsey shalloon 10s 6d 2 1/2yds white flannel 3s 9d 8 3/8 yds fine black cloth £7.14s11d

To Messrs Wright (Mercer) Providing hats/scarfs for men at funeral £50.13s.0d Making capes & lace £ 4. 7s. 0d 2 black buckles 2s 0d

The Funeral of Robert Townsend. A list of persons attending the funeral of Robert Townsend in May 1791, taken from the list of people needing gloves, and found in the estate papers.

Immediate family mourners. Mr & Mrs Birkitt, Mr Hardy, Elizabeth Ince, daughter.

The best shammy gloves for the Gentlemen. Mr William Forrester, Mr Hall, Mr George Forrester, Mr Thomas Ince, Mr Clegg Mr Dickinson, Mr Wilkinson, Mr Cheers (Estate Manager) Mr Oldfield, Kelsall, Mr Forrester of Willey, Mr Mostyn of Mostyn, Mr Nelson, Mr Wingfield, Mr John Adams, Mr William Adams, Mr Bailey, Mr Barton, Mr Foreshaw, Mr Wright.

Gloves for the men of the common sort. Jacob Adams, Thomas Brown Clerk of Christleton, Clerk of St Bridgets, George Moulton*, John Parry*, Peter Gibson*, John Moulton*, Thomas Peers*, John Pritchard*, Mr Townsend’s two servants.

  • These men were workers on the estate, and were paid 2s.6d “ for carrying him to church”.

Gloves for the best sort of ladies. Mrs Bailey, Mrs Forrester & two daughters, Mrs Lecardby, Mrs Adams, Mrs Foreshaw.

3 pairs of common black shammy for Mrs Townsend’s servant, cook and Mrs Forrester’s maid.

The funeral party would almost certainly have proceeded to the Glass House Inn where Mr Witter kept good ale & an eating house. In the diaries of Henry Prescott we learn a great deal about this particular place, first recorded on the John Ogilby map of Britain in 1685. It seems to have been an excellent eating place where the nobility of the city and county would gather, and meals including whitebait, lobster and Sir Loyn of beef were served. The Inn had a fine cellar of wine & beers and offered a good selection for Henry Prescott himself to sample. Employed as a finance officer for the Chester Diocese, Henry seems to have travelled extensively, and was always trying out the spirits, wines and local beers as part of his unofficial duties. Certainly the number of times in his diaries that he writes “that he has taken one or two early morning circuits around the Roodeye to clear his head”, indictates that he took his drinking seriously. He travelled to Christleton, not only to sample the local brew, and have a small wager on horses, racing at Farndon, or perhaps gambling with his friends at the Glass House Inn, but also to visit his friend Mr Townsend at The Old Hall, often accompanied by his beautiful wife Suzanna. They would sometimes continue their journey on horse back through to Wareton, (Waverton) to see their son Jack who was the Curate there. He didn’t have a very good reputation, as he was often absent when needed, and seems to have been dismissed from his post because of these bad habits.

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With permission from Christleton Old Hall by David Cummings