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Medieval Ownership

The medieval history of Aston on Trent is a little confused, no doubt because of the early split between the royal manor of Weston with its sub-manor of Octabrands estate at Aston on Trent and Shardlow, and the Ferrers manor of Aston, all three with land in Aston. Soon after 1086, William 1st gave the whole chain of early Alfgars Derbyshire manors along the Trent, including Weston, Smalley, and Kidsley to his nephew, Hugh, for whom he had created the county palatine of Chester in 1071. As Earl palatine of Chester, Hugh d’Avranches had special military responsibilities and powers. Whether the Derbyshire manors along the Trent, were given to him to simply enlarge his estates, or whether there was any military significance in this additional gift is not known. Certainly after his troubled early years in Normandy the Conqueror was well aware of the importance of key positions in trusted hands. 

Hugh, Earl of Chester, grew devout in his later years, and he in turn gave the manor of Weston, including the ferry and other appurtenances, to his new founded Abbey of St Werburgh at Chester. He also seems to have given the Abbey the advowson of the rectory of Aston, for this was in the gift of the Abbot as early as the reign of Henry I, 1100 – 1135. The gift of the ferry and fishery led to disagreements between the Abbey and the Lacy lords of Earl Alfgars manor of Castle Donington, who also claimed rights in the ferry and in the Trent fishery. Their contending claims were settled in an agreement of 1310 between the Abbot and Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln in which each conceded to the others rights of way to the ferry over their respective lands, the Abbot recognized the Earls right to a fishery, and the Earl recognized the Abbots right to one third of the profits from the Ears barge and boat employed on the ferry, subject to the Abbots meeting one third of the cost of building and repairing the boats and barges. 

It is not clear from the agreement whether the Abbot also ran a boat or whether the only boats and barges belonged to the Earl. It is clear that the Abbot was far from enjoying exclusive rights to the ferry because of Hugh’s gift. Similarly, though the Abbot held the manor and appurtenances of Weston, he did not own the whole of Aston. About 1200 Sir William de Verdon held a substantial estate in Aston on Trent by right of his marriage to Alice, daughter and co-heiress of Robert, son of Walter and his wife, Divena. Octabrand’s sub-manor, which may not have been included in Hugh’s gift, was probably the core of Verdon’s estate. It is difficult to see what other origins the Verdon estate could have had. Litigation between Verdon and the Abbey concerning four acres of meadow supports this deduction. Similarly the Verdon estate must have been the nucleus of the alter estate of Thomas de Chaworth who was described as holding the village of Aston on Trent in 1101. 

The Ferrers manor was split up quite early when Robert Ferrers the younger, Earl of Derby, gave two thirds of his manor and tithes of Aston on Trent to the Priory of Tutbury. By the reign of Richard II, the Abbey of Dale is also said to have had an estate there. Several small estates were also built up at Aston on Trent by laymen in the later middle ages, though little is known of them except for the most important, the future Aston Hall estate. Deeds for this exist from the thirteenth century. The earliest ones involve the Smith family but from the latter part of the fourteenth century to the early sixteenth century, they concern the Tikhill or Tikhull family. What the connection between the Smiths and the Tikhulls was and is unknown and, despite the survival of these records, the development of the estate is obscure.