This website is a SAMBROOK Family Genealogy website dedicated to the origins of the Sambrook family.Created by Ian Sambrook, currently living in Gisborne New Zealand
You can contact Ian at email@example.com
Anson of Shugborough Hall, Ranton Abbey and Orgreave Hall, Earls of Lichfield
The story of the Anson family is in many ways typical of the experience of English aristocratic families. Two successful lawyers, William Anson (c.1580-1645) and his grandson, William Anson (1656-1720) provided the family with modest landed estates and a fashionable country house at Shugborough.
The second William married an heiress and his eldest son, Thomas Anson (1695-1773), who inherited his father's estate at the age of 25, had the means to undertake a Grand Tour and indulge his passion for collecting beautiful things from across Europe and beyond to fill the house with treasures. Meanwhile, Thomas's younger brother, Admiral George Anson (1697-1762), 1st Baron Anson, had an adventurous and highly profitable career at sea, culminating in his capture of the Spanish treasure ship, Nuestra Señora de Covadonga: his captain's share (37.5%) of the value of her cargo was probably over £100,000. Lord Anson went on to become First Lord of the Admiralty and one of the ablest naval reformers of the 18th century, and he brought political connections and interests into the family. His position at the heart of the political establishment was cemented by his marriage in 1748 to the daughter of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke.
The two brothers were close and seem to have collaborated in the development of Shugborough as a grand seat with fashionable gardens, and in the purchase of property at Lichfield to provide a political base for the family. Lord Anson and his wife bought Orgreave Hall to have a house near to Shugborough, although from 1751 they had their own grand house at Moor Park in Hertfordshire where they also made improvements. Lady Anson died in 1760 and her husband two years later, and since they had no children, Thomas inherited the bulk of his fortune. Although already 67, unmarried and childless, Thomas threw himself into a further round of improvements, extending and landscaping the park at Shugborough and employing his friend James "Athenian" Stuart to realise as decorative buildings in the park some of the great monuments of ancient Greek architecture which he had recorded in the Antiquities of Athens. Stuart also rebuilt 15 St James Square, London (Lichfield House) as a London town house for Thomas. When Thomas died in 1773, Shugborough and its collections, and what was left of the Admiral's money, passed to his nephew George Adams (later Anson) (1731-89), who had already inherited Orgreave Hall from the Admiral. George's impact at Shugborough was minimal, but he had a large family of eight sons, many of whom had distinguished careers in the army and the church, and three daughters.
His eldest son was Thomas Anson (1767-1818), who as MP for Lichfield was a radical Whig and a keen supporter of Charles James Fox. In 1806 Fox rewarded his loyalty with a peerage as Viscount Anson. The 1st Viscount married a daughter of the agricultural pioneer, Thomas Coke of Holkham (Norfolk) and shared many of his father-in-law's interests: it was said that under his supervision the kitchen gardens at Shugborough became "a kind of Academy for the study of Horticulture". He also made further improvements to the house under the direction of Samuel Wyatt, extended the park and built a model farm to showcase his innovative methods. His eldest son, Thomas William Anson (1795-1854) 2nd Viscount Anson, inherited in 1818 and cut a dash in society in the 1820s and 1830s. He was described as "a fine fellow with an excellent disposition, liberal, hospitable, frank and gay, quick and intelligent", and he was in favour at Court. In about 1819 he bought the Ranton estate and built a new house there as a centre for entertaining and hunting. King William IV made him Earl of Lichfield in his coronation honours in 1831, and he was later Postmaster General for six years, overseeing the introduction of Rowland Hill's penny post.
However, he was also extravagant and addicted to betting, and he incurred heavy electioneering expenses: the cumulative effect was to rapidly accumulated mortgages on the estate up to the maximum that could be supported, and in 1842 he was sued for personal debts of £20,000 by a lawyer who seems also to have been his bookmaker. To clear this, almost all the contents of Shugborough and Lichfield House in London were sold and Lord Lichfield retreated to the Continent to leave cheaply. After he returned in 1847 he lived at Ranton, and Shugborough remained empty and shut up.
Thomas George Anson (1825-92), 2nd Earl of Lichfield, inherited in 1854 and took the radical decision to sell Lichfield House in London and use the proceeds to redecorate and refurnish Shugborough, so that the family could return there. In the prosperous years of the 1850s and 1860s the large mortgages on the estates could be serviced within the income from farming, but with the Agricultural Depression of the 1870s and 1880s they once more became a concern, and in 1880 the 2nd Earl handed over the Shugborough estate to his eldest son and heir, Thomas Francis Anson (1856-1918), 3rd Earl of Lichfield. The new owner set himself to reduce the mortgage burden. In place of a single very large mortgage he put in place a number of smaller loans with relations and friends who were perhaps less likely to foreclose, and he took on a number of company directorships in the banking industry and with Hudson's Bay Company to provide a non-agricultural income. With careful management of the estates these measures were ultimately successful in paying off the mortgages, and when the 3rd Earl died in a shooting accident in 1918 he left an estate which was unusually free of debt. This undoubtedly helped Thomas Edward Anson (1883-1960), 4th Earl of Lichfield, to steer the estate through the difficult years of the mid 20th century. Ranton Abbey was burnt out during the Second World War and the estate was sold in 1955; Orgreave Hall was also sold in 1953. After his death, Shugborough was accepted by the Government in lieu of death duties and presented to The National Trust for preservation, together with a modest endowment from the family. The Trust then entered into a long-term partnership with Staffordshire County Council to manage the house and estate and open them to the public, and the Council established its County Museum in buildings in the park.
The heir to the title in 1960 was Patrick Lichfield (1939-2005), 5th Earl of Lichfield, who as a society photographer, confidant of the royal family and man about town was much in the public eye in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Under the terms of the agreement with The National Trust, he kept a flat at Shugborough, a few rooms of which were occasionally opened to the public. In about 1987 he took the opportunity to buy back the Ranton Abbey estate which his grandfather had sold, and where the house was still a ruin. His intention was to build a new house there which could become a new seat for the family, but his efforts to secure planning permission for a new house only came to fruition a few weeks after he died. His son and heir, Thomas William Robert Hugh Anson (b. 1978), 6th Earl of Lichfield decided not to pursue the project and in 2008 sold Ranton again. He also gave up the family flat in Shugborough, ending his family's connection with Staffordshire after nearly 400 years.
During the Middle Ages, Shugborough belonged to the bishops of Lichfield, who had a moated manor house here, parts of which seem to have survived into the 1740s. In the 16th or early 17th century, ownership of the manor house became separated from the rest of the estate, and the property which William Anson inherited in 1688 consisted only of the house and about 80 acres of land. In 1693-95 he rebuilt the house as a smart seven by five bay, two-storey house of red brick (the top storey was added later), which remains the nucleus of the present building.
The architect is unknown, but a note dated 1694 among the Anson papers which says simply 'Waiting for Smith', together with what is known of the proportions and style of the building, must raise the possibility that it was William Smith (1660-1724) of Warwick, the elder brother of the more famous Francis. When first built, the house overlooked a small village of sixteen cottages strung out along a street leading down to the Essex Bridge across the River Trent.
When Thomas Anson (1695-1773) inherited the estate in 1720 his first priority seems to have been to buy up and demolish the nearby village houses (the villagers were re-housed in new cottages at Great Haywood, across the river), and in 1731 he acquired the nearby mill, with its pond and stream. This enabled him to convert the farm landscape into a park, and to enlarge the millpond into a small lake. Between 1737 and 1740 he purchased several further small pieces of land, so that by 1741 he owned a quarter of the village.
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Coat of arms - ANSON Quarterly, 1st, argent, three bends engrailed gules, in the sinister chief a crescent of the last (for Anson);