South facing aspect of Stanwardine Hall Built in Elizabeth I’s reign and displaying the Corbet coat of arms.
We first saw Stanwardine Hall in March 1957. I was horrified. To start with it was far bigger than anything I could have imagined. As we approached we could see a great crack running from top to bottom of the brickwork, and as we came round to the back door there were two more cracks rearing upwards. My instinct told me to sit tight and go no further. However with David holding the car door open and our host, Mr. Fred Hitchin standing in the doorway waiting for us, some action seemed to be called for and we went in. I remember Mrs. Hitchin was worried because she had sent the cushion covers to the cleaners and the little room next to the kitchen was not as bright as usual. The inside of the house was every bit as daunting as the outside. Fred Hitchin had only been married fourteen years and had lived in very few rooms. The last time it had been fully occupied was after Dunkirk when the Shropshire Yeomanry had been billeted there. In our case we needed to use much more of the house as David’s mother lived part of the time with us and needed separate rooms, also we had two children Tricia, just two, and Peter nearly one and Joyce Bennett who helped in the house and lived in.
With the aid of a Mrs. Evans and a Mr. Skane who camped in the house during the week we coped with gaping ceilings, broken plaster, etc. My Mother—in—law chose the upper floor and created for herself a very attractive bedroom and sitting room. These two rooms were in a very bad state initially.
The cracks in the wall did not unduly worry the experts and we were able to secure the help of the Ministry of Works for the preservation of Historic Buildings, who gave us a very generous grant. In fact the Ministry of Works reroofed the whole house using new slates on the front and using the best of the old on the back. Unfortunately in this we lost our slated valleys, and now have ordinary leaded ones. At this time there was a dilapidated and worm eaten ex—telegraph pole “supporting” a large beam in the banqueting hall. This was removed and the beam fastened to a large R.S.J. which spans the width of the house and is one of the hazards encountered by visitors who venture as far as the attics. They also repointed all the brickwork — a mammoth task as the bricks are small hand-made Elizabethan ones — and replaced the leaded window in the west wall of the banqueting hail. The finials were retrieved from their resting place in the garden and replaced. Jenks Builders were the contractors and we lived under tarpaulins and scaffolding for many months.
When Oteley was broken up and sold, before being rebuilt, in about July 1960, we bought some of the radiators and in 1961 installed some of them giving a degree of central heating. It is the old large bore system, self-circulating, and works well. There were certain frustrations in the installation of these radiators as tentative trial bores through the floors tended to start suitably at the side of the lower room and end well in the middle of the room above. In the November of 1963 David’s Mother died. However her rooms upstairs were soon occupied by his father’s sister who spent several years enjoying the peace and doing the Telegraph crossword with the aid of a magnifying glass. She was very deaf and almost blind and crippled with arthritis. During the cold weather she spent most of the time with my sister—in—law where the central heating was less basic. Unfortunately her stay with us ended when she tried to open the front door by pulling on the key (the only way), when the key came out and she broke her hip.
By June 1972 Peter was doing his O Levels, Tricia finishing A Levels and Secretarial course at the Technical College and Will was born. We had been married twenty years — a good way to celebrate.
Christmas Day 1976, is difficult to forget. Will came to my room about 8 o’clock, to say smoke was coming into his room, where he was busy unpacking his stocking. The house was on fire. It started from a fault in the chimney in the breakfast room and breaking out in the bathroom. This chimney had been on fire on the Thursday. We must have harboured doubts of some sort, because Peter went into the big chimney on Christmas Eve, Friday, to see if all was well. He could not get down the narrower flue from the breakfast room, but he could smell nothing to alarm him even though he could see a fault in the brickwork. The fire brigades of Ellesmere and Baschurch, both part time manned, arrived together about 25 minutes after the call. By this time we had rescued the furniture from the breakfast room, under the bathroom. The fire was out by 10 a.m. but the mess was dreadful — not from water but from smoke and heat. The structural damage was not great, the bathroom and landing oak floors were damaged beyond recall, also the staircase (quite modern softwood that was put in by Fred Hitchin’s father). The upstairs rooms were black from ceilings to remotest corner of drawers and any leather, whether on books or pictures had shrivelled. The bath hung by its pipes over the breakfast room. Will was the most affected with his possessions, losing all his clothes except a pair of pyjamas, one pair of trousers and his shoes. All his clothes were in the airing cupboard and his Teddy Bears on the bathroom window sill were lost too.
Three cheers for friends and neighbours who clothed Will, washed our sheets, and helped in many other ways; also to Alan Jones who by dint of cables in all directions kept the deep freeze going and gave us light and to Bill Humphreys who fixed us up with water. We had now got two bedrooms remotely habitable and several months of structural repairs, cleaning and decorating ahead of us. Bill Humphreys was able to scrape the burnt area off the beams worst affected. We replaced the oak floor with Softwood. By now, four years later, we can only smell smoke occasionally, usually on damp Autumn days before the heating is put on.
For some time we knew we must do something about the trees on the north side of the house. We explored tree surgery to remove the branches which overhung the house, leaving the other trees, except those obviously unsafe. We eventually decided, very reluctantly, to have them all down and in March 1979 the twenty two sycamores that occupied the small space by the side door were felled. They were at least one hundred years old and towered over the house. We intended at the time to replant. However we enjoy the view without them and I am sure the house is better off, so we will plant trees further away from the house.
When we arrived here in 1957, Fred Hitchin gave us his billiard table, which had originally come from Petton Hall. With the table came a tradition, of Monday night billiards and in due course we resumed the tradition, our very good neighbours Eric Williams, Frank Dickin and Stanley Hulme making the four with David. We were sometimes able to arrange an evening when three of the original four players, Fred Hitchin, Harry Edwards, and Harold Lea came to show us how it should be done. We were not organised soon enough to include Jack Dickin, the fourth member of the original players.
Cheese was made in the house until stopped by war regulations in 1939. In those days the cows were milked by hand in the cross tie shippons and the milk carried to the house and made into cheese in what is now called the old dairy. The cheeses were raised by a hoist and ripened in the cheese room, originally the upper part of the kitchen until a mezzanine floor was put in. In due course a horse and cart was backed up to the window and the cheeses loaded up for sale. Until the fire, the hatch and lifting gear were still in position.
By the time we arrived the dairy was nearer the shippons where the cows were milked by machine and the milk carried to the dairy to be cooled and put in churns. There was a considerable T.B. problem and having an accredited herd we had to do a lot of cleaning etc., before bringing the cows.
An abreast parlour was installed in the shippon nearest the dairy. The milk was conveyed by water jacketed pipe to the dairy, arriving cool and ready to be transferred to churns which were connected up in series and filled automatically. The cows were still tied by the neck in the old shippons. Eventually the shippons were gutted and the cows loose housed. In December 1967 the Ayrshire herd went down with Foot and Mouth and were all slaughtered. We restocked in March 1968 with Friesians, some of which were pedigree stock. At this time a bulk tank was installed.
The gutted shippons were always difficult to muck out, as there was a loft overhead and headroom was very limited, so a cubicle building was created beside the covered silo to provide lying for 72 cows, who self fed at the silage face. This has since been extended to provide bedded area for dry cows on the other side of the silo and more recently the cubicles have been extended to provide lying for a further 50 cows.
By 1978 the original abreast parlour was proving very inadequate for the number of cows and the old shippon area has been turned into a covered collecting yard with the new parlour, a 16/16 herringbone at the other end of it, with new dairy beyond in what was the barn, where feeds were milled and mixed.
We have also installed “Out of Parlour” electronic feeders. The cows wear collars bearing transponders which activate the feeders to give a predetermined ration which is delivered in four feeds over 24 hours.
Mrs. Margaret Bridge. 1981
The above is part of the ‘Weston Lullingfields WI Domesday Project in 1980-1’ which can be ordered on DVD from the Shropshire Family History Society as part of ‘Baschurch and Weston Lullingfields: History, people and places’ compiled by Sue Pugh on behalf of the Shropshire Family History Society in 2014.