Steeped in history The Ashes comprises a fine H-shaped 17th century house, now home to Ben, Sarah and family, a large 17th century livestock house, an 18th century barn, and a bull pen. The house is Listed Grade II* and the wedding barns are listed in their own right; together they form the finest group of historical farm-buildings in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Historic Wedding Venue
The deeds which date back to the Elizabethan period, cover the purchase of the tithes and the purchase of both the copyhold and the freehold in the early 18th century and are amazing artefacts in their own right.
Monks at The Ashes
Local legend states that the monks of Dieulacres Abbey owned the property, that they used lockable cells in the cellar and that the stone container in the cellar was a monk’s coffin. There are also claims that it was the manor house. Neither the documents nor the building substantiate these ideas although Ben will tell you that the ‘container’ in his cellar looks very much like a coffin and that strangely the house was built around it.
In 1560, twenty-two years after the dissolution of the abbey, Sir Ralph Bagnall sold the tithes for the township of Longsdon to Hugh Bentley of Longsdon. Two years later he sold the tithes of Endon to John Wedgewood of Harracles. Both townships were in the parish of Leek, and had paid their tithes (church taxes) to the Dieulacres Abbey throughout the later Middle Ages. The deeds for The Ashes mention the abbey as the former holder of the tithes.
For most of the 20th Century, The Ashes was owned by just one family, the Williamsons, who farmed it in the time-honoured way using horses right up until the 1960’s. Generations of the family worked the farm until only one charismatic lady remained, Bessie Williamson.
She lived a contented life at The Ashes until she was 95. Happy to work the land and live a simpler life, the country house was never modernised or altered in any significant way since it was built, making it a treasure trove of untouched period features including original old doors, mullion windows and intricate stonework.
Phoenix from The Ashes
In 2006, when Ben and Sarah acquired The Ashes it represented a significant restoration challenge, the farm buildings had been left to the elements, the courtyards were just mud mires, the driveway and lake simply didn’t exist. Working closely with UK conservation on this historic wedding venue, Ben and Sarah worked tirelessly on what was to become an award-winning restoration project to raise a phoenix from The Ashes. For all those happy couples who view The Ashes today, spare a thought for the old souls who have lived there, I wonder what they’d make of it now!