The History and Associations of Maple Hayes Hall

Joss Musgrove Knibb, Deputy Editor of the Lichfield Gazette, gave a large October audience a fascinating fact-packed tour of the history of Maple Hayes Hall in a talk that lasted a little over an hour. Joss's research has begun the process of revealing the complex history of the house, or more particularly, its occupants. Although we all recognise the Hall as a Georgian building, there is evidence that the site was occupied by yeoman farmers in the fifteenth century and probably even earlier, when it was called Mabbley Hays. In 1728 a single farmhouse stood on the site. When the owner, William Jesson died in 1732, the estate was shared by his daughters. In 1786, his great nephew sold the estate to George Addams, a Lichfield wine merchant.

It was George Addams who demolished the farmhouse to build a new manor house in 1794, although evidence suggests that building works were lengthy, extending over 8 years. In Georgian style, it was of three storeys and five bays with a central porch entrance and two single storey wings. Addams did not long enjoy his new property, but sold it in 1804 to John Atkinson, High Sheriff of Staffordshire (1828). He appears to have resided there for a number of years, but left in 1834 and the records tell us that he was living in Boulogne by 1838!

Atkinson let the house to a number of tenants during this period, including Sir Thomas Fremantle, 1st Baron Cottesloe. An eminent politician, he was the eldest son of Admiral Sir Thomas Fremantle and Betsey Wynne (who's brother was a friend of Giacomo Casanova). The Australian city of Fremantle is named after the Admiral, who had fought with Nelson at Trafalgar. He died in 1819 at Naples, where his grave can still be visited. The extent to which Sir Thomas occupied the Hall is not known, for by 1851 it was occupied by Samuel Pole Shawe (High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1855). By 1894 the house had been sold (with its estate of 450 acres) to Albert Octavius Worthington (High Sheriff in 1889) of the Burton brewing company, Worthingtons.

The Worthington family extended the estate and improved the house. The wings were raised to two storeys and bay windows added, a new southern wing and northern service wing were added, giving the house the look we recognise today. The house remained in the ownership and occupation of the family until 1950. Joss has been able to obtain copies of a number of fascinating family photographs, which provide us with a hint of life in a wealthy local family at that time. By 1950, the family did not regard the Hall as their main residence and the estate of over 1400 acres was broken up with the house being sold to Staffordshire County Council, who used it as a boarding facility for King Edward VI School. In 1981 it was acquired by Dr Neville Brown to become the "Maple Hayes School for Dyslexics" we all know today.

It was clear from Joss's talk that there's still much to uncover about the Hall's history. Unexamined records still remain in the Hall to this day. It was, for instance, the first home in Lichfield to be lit by gas. Yet Pevsner's book on the Buildings of Staffordshire only makes a short reference to it: "Late Georgian of five bays and two storeys. The one-bay wings with canted bay windows were added c. 1885-90, a job very tactfully done. Erasmus laid out his botanic garden here". For those who would like a more detailed history of the estate, go to "British History Online" at where there's an excellent summary sourced from the Staffordshire County History.

Roger Hockney
October 2013