Murder, Oranges and Ha Ha’s!
By Jono Oates
Situated about four miles from Stafford, Ingestre Hall has a history dating back to the 12th century and it was the ancestral home of two of the most powerful Staffordshire families, the Chetwynds and the Talbots. The land was part of the Baronry of Stafford which was granted by William the Conqueror to Robert de Stafford. In the 12th century, at the time of King Henry II, the manor belonged to Ivo de Mutton, and when Isabel de Mutton married Sir Philip Chetwynd in the 13th century, the estate became home to the Chetwynd family.
In 1549 a feud erupted between Sir William Chetwynd and Sir Humphrey Stanley, the Sheriff of Stafford, who were both royal courtiers. Sir Humphrey was jealous of William’s standing at Court and set a trap to eliminate his rival. He lured William out of Ingestre with a forged letter, asking him to attend a meeting early one morning at Stafford. On the way to Stafford, with just his son and two servants to accompany him, Sir William’s party was set upon at Tixall Heath by twenty heavily-armed men and Sir William was killed. It was said that Sir Humphrey then ‘happened’ to pass by the scene, claiming to be on a deer hunting expedition, despite the fact that deer had not been spotted in the area for years. Although it was clear that Stanley had been responsible for the murder of his rival, he was never brought to trial or punished.
Sir Walter Chetwynd arranged for the original hall to be built in 1613 in the Jacobean style. Walter’s grandson (also Walter) was a noted 17th century antiquarian and, under his ownership during the 1670s, a church was built alongside the hall, which was reputedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
In 1748 Catherine Chetwynd married the Honourable John Talbot, a British judge, who inherited the estate though his wife, becoming John Chetwynd-Talbot. The famous landscaper, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown laid out the plans for the formal grounds, and gardens in 1756, including his signature piece, a ha-ha.
During the 1830s an Orangery was built close to the hall. It was originally believed to have been designed by the architect brothers James and Samuel Wyatt, but is now believed to have been taken from the Wyatt’s plans of the Orangery at Blithfield Hall, which had been copied by Henry Ward, a Stafford planning officer.
In 1856 the 3rd Earl Talbot, Henry Chetwynd-Talbot, became the 18th Earl of Shrewsbury, after a lengthy inheritance battle in the House of Lords. The original hall was more or less destroyed in 1882 when a fire swept through it, many valuable paintings and antiques were lost, and the hall was then rebuilt, in the same Jacobean style as the original build.
The 21st Earl of Shrewsbury sold the estate in 1959 and it is now a combination of business ventures. Part of the hall is owned by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council who run a Residential Arts Centre and the Orangery is an event venue.
*Please note that Ingestre Hall and the Orangery are both currently closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.