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A Little More History

Aston means the East Farm. Its history probably begins in the 6th Century, perhaps as a result of migration from Weston upon Trent, the West farm. Gradually, land about the tiny settlement was taken into cultivation, but the soil was difficult and colonisation was stilt incomplete when Domesday Book was compiled in 1086. By then, Aston on Trent was divided between three estates, part belonged to the royal manor of Weston upon Trent part was a berwick (outlying farm) of the same manor, held be Uctebrand as s sub manor from the King, and part was a small manor belonging to Henry Ferrers. The arable lands of the farms must have lain intermingled in the great open fields of the township. By the 17th century and probably long before there were four of these huge unfenced fields, sub­divided into hundreds of strips. The farmers lived in the village with their farmhouses, gardens and orchards, their yards and barns, along and behind the village streets. The two main streets are Derby Road and Weston Road and where they meet there used to be a cross, which is marked on a map of 1827. 

The extension of Derby Road south of the junction with Weston Road was little built along and locally led mainly to the church and hall. A minor Street, The Green, diverging North East from the cross, was being built up from at least the late 17th Century and another path led from Derby Road to Little Moorside where there was a cottage even in the 17th century. There used to be a village green ‘Le Grene’ is mentioned in the 13th century and Hall Green in 1585 but its position is unknown, though the Green of today perhaps provides a clue. No outlying farmhouses were built until after 1763, when the open fields were enclosed allowing compact farms to be created. As the old farm house slowly fell out of use, partly because farms increased in size, their sites were often built over. Robert Clarke, gentleman, for instance brought a messuage (house) in 1763 with its orchard and homestead and by 1782 had built four more houses on the land. Much of the present village centre owes its existence to the rebuilding and new building which took place in Aston on Trent in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Until brick was introduced into Aston, perhaps in the 17th century, houses and cottages would have been built of timber and daub. There were still some such buildings with thatched roofs in 1839 but none has survived and only one brick house pre-dating the 18th century, number 16 The Green. This has much altered, particularly by the insertion of later windows. Originally, it had a central hall with a large fireplace lit by a small window (now blocked) whilst the entrance was in the opposite wall into a lobby against the chimney stack a common 17th century arrangement The date stone above the blocked window is inscribed WCM 1690, suggesting the builder was a Christopher Wright, one of a long line of that name. The church stands South of the village, a little apart from it. In 1086, it was one of two churches sharing a priest on Weston Manor. Some stones of the Saxon nave may still remain and there is certainly a Saxon stones carved with interlacing preserved in the West wall adjoining the tower. The church was being improved or partially rebuilt or enlarged during much of the medieval period. The massive lower stages of the tower, the tower arch and windows, and the west door belong to the Norman period the nave and aisles to the 13th century whilst the windows in the South aisle and in the South wall of the Chancel are decorated (14th century). 

It was completed with a clerestory, new windows in the North aisle and a rebuilt top to the tower, all in perpendicular style. Aston on Trent Hall lies nearby, but it was not as you might expect Aston’s manor house. After the early disappearance of Henry Ferrers small estate and Uctebrand’s sub-manor, no other manor of Aston on Trent seems to have developed and the greatest landowner until 1647-8 was the lord of the manor of Weston upon Trent. This William I gave (with its Aston on Trent lands) to Hugh Earl of Chester, who in turn gave it to the Abbey at St Werburgh at Chester. 

Further gifts to the Abbey were absorbed into Weston Manor, until at least a quarter of Aston on Trent belonged to it. After the dissolution of the monasteries, West Manor passed to and fro between the crown and the Paget family until in 1612 it came to Anthony Roper of Eltham in Kent, by his marriage to Mary Gerard the Paget heiress. 

The Aston on Trent Hall estate was quite independent of Weston manor until 1633 its origins are medieval but its history can only be clearly traced from the late 14th century, when it came to the Tikhill family. The last of his line Thomas of Aston, gentleman sold his lands’ in Aston on Trent to John Hunt of Overton in Ashover, gentleman, in 1513 and the Hunts moved to Aston on Trent remaining until another John sold the estate in 1620. Anthony Roper owner of Weston Manor and its lands bought the Aston on Trent Hall estate in 1633. After Ropers death West Manor lands including seven farms in Aston on Trent were purchased by Nicholas Wilmot esquire in October 1647. Nicholas’s cousin, Robert Holden of Shardlow, bought the Aston on Trent Hall property and a month later the Lordship of Weston manor and those lands still belonging to it i.e. those not sold to Wilmot. Nicholas Wilmot soon sold farms to the sitting tenants but the Holden’s were to remain lords of the manor of Weston and owners of Aston on Trent Hall for 250 years. 

Almost certainly there was a large house on the Aston on Trent estate long before its first mention in 1532. In the 17th century it had fish ponds, a dovecote (to supply pigeons to eat), a rabbit warren, a garden, two orchards and a malt mill. An inventory of 1692 shows there were twenty three rooms in Aston on Trent Hall many of them service or store rooms – dairy, brew house, still house, cheese chamber. Although a gentlemen’s residence it was also a farm house. Robert Holden’s grandson, another Robert, made a great deal of money in the law. He bought more land married his old child Mary to James Shuttleworth, heir to an extensive northern estate, and built a new Hall at Aston on Trent in about 1735. Roberts’s house contains five bays and is three stories high with central Venetian windows on both main façades. Inside is an attractive Georgian staircase and, two rooms are lined with 17th century or earlier panelling. Robert also created a park around his fashionable house and banished farming operations to outbuildings. 

He we determined his lands should not be absorbed into the Shuttleworth estate and left Aston on Trent to a younger son of Mary and James Shuttleworth, Charles changed his name to Holden in order to inherit. Charles added porticoes to the Hall but made little mark on the house or estate. He allowed James Sutton of Shardlow to build up a fair-sized property in Aston, whilst he was head of the family (1791-1821). Edward Anthony Charles’ son, considerably enlarged the hall with the addition of the ballroom, in 1828 he began to buy every cottage or farm which came on the market, this continued after his death. His grandson sold his inheritance to William Dickson Winterbottom a Manchester book-cloth manufacturer. In 1898 the estate comprised about two thirds of Aston on Trent parish and most of the village. After Winterbottom’s death in 1924 it was broken up for sale and became a hospital. The Hall is now a number of private apartments.