[From Old Cheshire Families & Their Seats - Lionel M. Angus-Butterworth, Manchester: 1932]
The house of Stanley is one whose members have played a most distinguished part in the history of the nation. The first ancestor on record is one Adam de Audithlegh, who came over with William the Conqueror, and who derived his name from his paternal estate of Audithlegh in Normandy. He acquitted himself bravely upon the field of Hastings, and was rewarded with large grants of land. He had two sons, Lyulph and Adam de Audithlegh, from the elder of whom was descended the famous Lord Audley of Cheshire, represented at the present day through the female line by the Touchets, Lords Audley.
Adam de Audithlegh the younger married the heiress of the manor of Stanley or Stoneley, a hamlet three miles from Leek in Staffordshire, the name of which had the Anglo-Saxon meaning of stony lea or stony field. The old topographer Erdswick remarks that the place, " seems to take its name from the nature of the soil, which, though it be in the moorlands, is yet a rough and stony place, and many craggy rocks are about it." As a younger son Adam was probably without lands of his own, and it is therefore as we might expect when we find that after his marriage he made Stanley his seat. His action in assuming his wife's maiden name was also in accordance with the custom of the times, and in reality was nothing more than the adopting of a fresh territorial designation from his new landed possessions. The original family -of Stanley was of Saxon origin and of great antiquity.
Adam de Stanley thus became the founder of the Anglo-Norman Stanleys, whom Croston speaks of rightly as, " a race the most illustrious in the country's annals, and associated with the most stirring events of history." The same writer states elsewhere that Sir William Stanley, the fifth in descent from Adam de Stanley, " gave an impetus to the fortunes of the family by one of those matrimonial alliances to which the house of Stanley owes so much of its prosperity." His wife was Joan, the youthful daughter and coheiress of Sir Philip Bamville, Master Forester of the Wirral, and lord of Storeton near Birkenhead. The marriage was a true romance, concerning which we find the following record in the Cheshire Inquisitions.-
"That on the Sunday after the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and, Evangelist, two years ago, viz., on the 27th September, 1282, Philip de Bamville, with his wife and family, was at a banquet given by Master John de Stanley, on which occasion Joan (Bamville), suspecting that her father intended to marry her to her step-mother's son, took means to avoid it by repairing with William de Stanley to Astbury Church, where they uttered the following mutual promise, he saying: "Joan, I plight thee my troth to take and hold thee as my lawful wife until my life's end," and she replying, "I, Joan, take thee, William, as my lawful husband." The witnesses were Adam de Hoton and Dawe de Coupe-lond."
This alliance had important consequences for the Stanleys. Through it Sir William inherited one-third of the manor of Storeton, the remaining two-thirds of which he subsequently acquired. He also secured the hereditary bailiwick or chief rangership of the Forest of Wirral, then extending over the whole peninsular between the estuaries of the Mersey and the Dee, and so thickly wooded that according to an old saying:-
"From Blacon point to Hilbree
A squirrell may leap from tree to tree."
The Stanleys in this generation migrated to Cheshire from the Stony-lea in Staffordshire, and at the same time Sir William adopted the coat of arms that is still borne by his descendants "Argent, on a bend Azure, three bucks' heads caboshed Or." The use of the three bucks' heads in the arms was in allusion to the office of hereditary forester of the Wirral.
Another Sir William Stanley, the third in descent from the first Forester,, married Alice, daughter of Sir Hamo de Maser of Timperley. They had a son, Sir John de Stanley, K.G., who became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and married Isabel, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas de Lathom, lord of Lathom and Knowsley in Lancashire. In 1405 this Sir John received a grant of the Isle of Man, which he and his descendants ruled as Kings of Man until 1736. It was by the marriage of Sir John with the heiress of Lathom that the Stanley family acquired their remarkable Eagle and Child crest: "On a chapeau Gules turned up ermine, an eagle with wings elevated Or, preying upon an infant swaddled of the first, banded Argent."
The great-grandson of Sir John was Thomas Stanley of Knowsley, created first Earl of Derby two months after Bosworth Field, where he and his family contributed greatly to the victory of the Tudors. This first Lord Derby was, according to Ormerod, a younger son, and it was his elder brother, Sir John Stanley, who became the founder of the line of Stanley of Alderley by his marriage with Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Weever of Weever and Alderley. It should be mentioned that some writers have assumed that the Earls of Derby, having attained the greater social eminence, are the senior line, but this would appear not to be the case in fact.
The descendants of Sir John lived at Weever for some generations, but his great-grandson Thomas Stanley, who was High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1572, made Alderley his main seat. Thomas Stanley re-built the old halls both of Weever and Alderley. He married Ursula, daughter of Richard Cholmondeley of Cholmondeley, and was the first member of the family to be buried at Alderley. An alabaster monument to his memory was placed in the church there, showing him in armour, with his four children at his feet. This memorial, the oldest at Alderley, was lost sight of for a long period, but was rediscovered during restoration work in 1878. The effigy was then much mutilated, but sufficient of a black-letter inscription remained to identify it. By good fortune the complete wording of the inscription is available through a seventeenth-century record, and is as follows :-
"Here lyeth ye body of Tho. Stanley Esqr who married Ursula Daughter to Rich : Chollmondoly Esqr and had Issue by her Tho : & Randoll, Elizabeth married to Roger Downs Esqr, Franciss married to Henry Delves Esqr, & Dorothy who liveth sole, & built ye Houses of Alderley & Weaver & departed this life ye first day of August Ann : Dom : 1591." Randle Stanley, of Weever and Alderley, was returned as heir to his father in 1592. It is interesting to notice that even up to this time a close connection was being kept up between the Alderley and Knowsley lines. By reason of the relationship Randle was appointed Captain of the Isle of Man, and went there in 1594. He died on the Island in the following year and was buried at the church of Kirk Malew.
The eldest son and heir of Randle was Sir Thomas Stanley, Knight, who in 1596 married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Peter Warburton of Grafton, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Through his wife he acquired the manors of Anderton and Grafton in Cheshire, and those of Barlow, Dronsfield, and Brighton in Derbyshire. The latter estates had descended to Lady Stanley from her mother, and were not considered very attractive by Sir Thomas. They were not very fertile and were situated at a distance from his home. He accordingly sold them for £1,300, and shortly afterwards purchased the manor of Nether Alderley and other lands from Sir Edward Fitton of Gawsworth for £2,000. He died in 1606 at the very early age of 28, when his heir, also named Thomas, was aged only 8 years. At the time of his death Sir Thomas held six manors, those of Weever, Over Alderley, Nether Alderley, Clive, Little Meols, and Pulton Launcelyn, and in addition lands in no less than twenty-one other townships. The family estates had, in fact, been increasing steadily, partly, as Croston points out, " from lands acquired at different times through prudent marriages," and partly from grants of the possessions of the dissolved abbey of Dieulacres (or God's acres). Sir Thomas appears to have been a prudent and careful man who came to be regarded as one of the leading figures in the affairs of the county. It as therefore natural he should be knighted by James I when the King stayed at Worksop Manor on his way to London after the death of Elizabeth. It is perhaps unkind to add that James I on his progress through the country on that occasion granted the honour of knighthood to no less than 237 gentlemen who were presented to him.
Thomas Stanley the younger came of age in 1633, and was High Sheriff of the county in the following year. About the same time he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Pytts of Kyre in Worcestershire. On the outbreak of the Civil War he ranged himself on the side of Parliament, but does not appear to have taken any active part in the fighting of this stirring period. He was much occupied, however, with his duties as a magistrate, for marriage as a religious ceremony was forbidden by law during the Usurpation, a civil contract being substituted for it which had to be entered into before a justice of the peace. The parish registers of this part of Cheshire show that Mr. Stanley was very frequently called upon to perform this office, which points to his personal popularity. The late Lord Stanley of Alderley informed me that his ancestor, being a far-sighted man, became aware that the experiment of a Commonwealth was about to come to an end before this actually happened. He accordingly offered his support to the exiled Charles II, but only upon terms. At the Restoration he was created a Baronet, being the first Cheshire gentleman upon whom that dignity was conferred. It is said that some ill-feeling was thus caused among the Royalists who had supported Charles through the whole period of the Usurpation, and who resented the granting of a title to a Puritan while they themselves went unrewarded. Apart from the aid he was able to give the King, Sir Thomas Stanley was, however, a person of growing consequence and possessions in the county, and the honour was therefore one which could not in any event have been long withheld.
Sir Thomas purchased Chorley Hall, in Wilmslow parish, before 1640. He also made many improvements to Alderley Old Hall, building a stone-arched gateway in front of it and spacious stables. It was he also who planted the beech woods near the mere in the park at Alderley, it being said that for the purpose he procured beech-mast from his father-in-law's seat in Worcestershire, as the tree was then rare in Cheshire.
Sir Peter Stanley, the second baronet, who succeeded his father, was High Sheriff in 1678. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Leigh of Northcourt, in the Isle of Wight, and by her he had nine children, two being sons and seven daughters. During the lifetime of Sir Thomas Stanley, elder son and heir of Sir Peter, the old timber-framed Weever Hall, which until then had remained in the family, was sold to one Randle Wilbraham of Townshend.
Sir Thomas Stanley, who died in 1721, had two sons, both of whom inherited the title in turn. The elder son, Sir James Stanley, was of a remarkably mild and placid temperament. His philosophy of life can be gleaned from the following lines, of which he was the author :-
"The grace of God and a quiet life,
A mind content, and an honest wife,
A good report and a friend in store,
What need a man to wish for more."
An old retainer of the family, John Finlow, placed on record that, " Sir James used to drive up to the Edge almost daily in his carriage drawn by four black long-tailed mares, always accompanied by a running footman by the name of Critchley." It would seem that Finlow himself had the advantage over the footman, for being but a boy at the time it was his duty to get up behind the carriage. When Sir James Stanley died, in 1747, his younger brother Edward became fifth baronet.
Sir Edward Stanley married Mary, the daughter of Thomas Ward, a wealthy London banker. He died in his carriage in 1755, while returning from a visit to Charles Legh of Adlington, as the result of a sudden fit of apoplexy. His heir, John Thomas Stanley, was in his twenty-first year at the time of his father's death. When the son succeeded Alderley Edge was still an uncultivated and bare heath, and it was he who enclosed it in 1799. It was only after this that the fir trees, which are now such a characteristic feature of the Edge, were planted.
Sir John Stanley, seventh Baronet and grandson of the last named, was created Baron Stanley of Alderley on May 9th, 1839. He married in 1796 Lady Maria Josepha Holroyd, eldest daughter of John, first Earl of Sheffield. Like others of his house he travelled widely, and was also a writer of merit. In 1789 he published "A Voyage to the Orknies," and in 1796 there appeared his " Leonora," a translation from the German. He equipped a vessel for the purpose of making a study of Iceland, and published two papers in the transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on " The Hot Springs of Iceland." His Lordship was a Fellow of the Royal Society (of London). Lord Stanley died on October 23rd, 1850, and was buried with his ancestors at Alderley.
A sister of the first Lord Stanley, Margaret Ann, who had been born at Lyons in 1768, was married in 1802 to General Sir George Baldwin Leighton, Bart. His younger brother Edward Stanley, who had been born over twelve years later than himself, became the most beloved Rector that Alderley has ever had. He is famous for his charming " Familiar History of Birds," and took a delight in the quiet rural life of Cheshire. Fortunately for the church his great qualities were recognized, and in 1837, when he had been Rector of Alderley for thirty-two years, he was offered the bishopric of Norwich. He was fully content with his retired mode of life at Alderley, and wished for no change, but the opportunity for fuller service presented itself in the light of a duty to him, and he accepted the appointment. He was Bishop of Norwich for twelve years, and died in 1849 at the age of 70, being buried in Norwich Cathedral. By his wife Catherine, eldest daughter of the Rev. Oswald Leycester of Toft, Co. Chester, he had a number of children. His eldest son, Captain Owen Stanley, R.N., died at Sydney, New South Wales, in 1850, and his third son, Captain Edward Stanley, R. E., at Hobart Town, Tasmania, in 1849. His younger daughter, Catherine Maria, was married in 1850 to the Rev. C. J. Vaughan, D.D. But it was through his second son, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, that Bishop Stanley was to live again. Arthur Stanley became the most noteworthy and venerated of the Deans of Westminster. He was married at Westminster Abbey in 1863 to Lady Augusta Elizabeth Frederica, daughter of Thomas, seventh Earl of Elgin, but had no family.
Edward John, second Lord Stanley of Alderley, had been created Baron Eddisbury of Winnington, Cheshire, in 1848, during the lifetime of his father. He had a distinguished political career, being the member for North Cheshire from 1832 to 1841, President of the Board of Trade from 1855 to 1858, and Postmaster General from 1860 to 1866. His Lordship was married at Florence on October 6th, 1826, to Henrietta Maria, daughter of Augustus, thirteenth Viscount Dillon, by whom he had a large family.
Henry Edward John Stanley, third Lord Stanley of Alderley, was the eldest son of the second baron. He married Fabia, daughter of Don Santiago Frederico San Roman, of Seville, but had no issue. Accordingly upon his death the title passed to his younger brother, Edward Lyulph Stanley, who also inherited the barony of Sheffield, which had become extinct in the male line. The fourth Lord Stanley was Fellow of Balliol from 1862 to 1869, and represented Oldham in the Liberal interest from 1880 to 1885. His Lordship married Mary Katharine, daughter of Sir Lothian Bell, Bart., of Washington, Co. Durham, by whom he had three sons and five daughters. He died in 1925 at the advanced age of 85 years, and was succeeded by his eldest son Sir Arthur Lyulph Stanley, K.C.M.G., fifth Baron Stanley of Alderley.
The fifth Lord Stanley was educated at Balliol like his father, and was a barrister-at-law. His Lordship was member for the Eddisbury division of Cheshire from 1906 to 1910, and Governor of Victoria from 1914 to 1919. He served in the South African War, was a Deputy Lieutenant of County Anglesey, and served as High Sheriff of Anglesey in 1913. He married in 1905 Margaret, daughter of Henry Evans Gordon, and died in 1931, when his son Edward, sixth Lord Stanley, succeeded him.
ALDERLEY PARK AND OLD CHURCH. Until 1779 the Stanley family lived at Alderley Old Hall, which was situated close to the church. There had been a house on this site from very early times, and we have already noted that the hall was rebuilt by a Stanley who died in 1591. The alterations of the first Baronet nearly a century later were very extensive and may almost be regarded as another rebuilding. In an account of the district by a member of the family*[* "Alderley Edge and its Neighbourhood," The Hon. Dorothea Stanley.] the old hall is spoken of in these terms : " The house stood in the village of Alderley close to the mill. It was surrounded by a moat, spreading out into a large sheet of water on the east side, and on the west filling a channel cut out of the solid rock. . . . A handsome stone bridge of two arches crossed the moat from the ground and west side to a stone terrace, which commanded views of the Park, the Church, and the plain of Cheshire, and by a flight of steps led to a handsome stone arched gateway close to the road, built by Sir Thomas, the first Baronet. He died in 1672."
All that now remains of the old hall are two pillars of the entrance gateway, which still carry aloft the Stanley crest, for the main fabric was destroyed in 1779 as the result of a disastrous fire. The then owner, Sir John Stanley, sixth Baronet, was absent in Chester at the time, and only arrived back when nearly everything was consumed. It is said that he was returning by way of Knutsford, and heard of the calamity from the toll-bar keeper at Ollerton.
The cause of the fire was never known, but it is believed to have started in the great chimney in the kitchen, which, like that in the dining-hall, was large enough to roast an ox. Family records of great value were burnt, and the library, with its wonderful collection of books and papers, was completely lost. The gardener, a Scot named Mackay, had a very narrow escape. He slept in a room over the library, and woke only when the stairs were a raging furnace. To save his life he was obliged to climb down the face of the building from his attic window. The gallery, which had fine carved panelling and a cornice ornamented with the arms and crests of allied families, was a noble apartment. Many of the pictures were saved, but the finest of them all, a full-length portrait of Sir John, by Gainsborough, was sacrificed because no one had the presence of mind to cut it from its frame, which was too large to be passed through the window.
After the fire the family took up their residence at Park House, which had formed part of the estates held in Alderley by the Abbey of Dieulacres near Leek. This was shortly afterwards greatly enlarged to the plans of the sixth Baronet, who was a highly skilled draughtsman. In 1818 the house was pulled down and the present Alderley Park was erected on the same site. The existing building is of brick, with a stone facade, and is of little architectural merit. Other more attractive and commanding sites were available in the park, but probably the choice of the former secluded position again may be taken as a further proof of the modest and retiring disposition of the family, disliking ostentation in any form. Close to the hall is one of those delightful sheets of water which are found so frequently in the county, formerly known as Radnor Mere, but now generally called Alderley Mere.
The old church at Alderley contains many memorials of the Stanley family, the most ancient of which, that to the sixteenth-century High Sheriff, Thomas Stanley, we have already noticed. At the east end of the south side of the chancel is a recumbent effigy of the first Lord Stanley of Aldereley, in his robes as a peer. The monument is inscribed :-
"John Thomas Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley of Alderley, born at Alderley,, 26th November, 1766, Married, 11th October, 1796, Maria Josepha Holroyd, eldest daughter of John, 1st Earl of, Sheffield, died at Alderley, 22nd October, 1850.
Beloved and honoured during a long life, happy amidst the affections 0f a numerous family, ever intent on the search after truth, devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, the father and friend of all around him.
Also to the memory of Maria Josepha his beloved wife, who lived 53 years in Alderley, loved and revered by those who surrounded her, eldest daughter of John, 1st Earl of Sheffield, born Jan. 3rd, 1771, died Nov. 1st., 1863."
On the north side of the chancel, in a recess corresponding with that on the south side, is a raised altar tomb to the memory of the second Lord Stanley of Alderley, who is represented holding a roll in his left hand and with his head resting on a pillow. The tomb is richly inlaid with mosaic, and in one side of it is inserted one of the best modern brasses in the country. Upon this the widow of Lord Stanley is represented seated in a group of her children. On her right hand stand her four sons, in the robes of their professions, and on her left five of her daughters, the figures of two who died young being placed close to their mother's chair. A sixth daughter, who died as an infant, is shown being held by Lady Stanley. All the faces are excellent portraits, and the interest of the brass is further increased by the fact that each daughter bears a small shield of arms in enamel, all except one of which are impaled coats. At the feet of Lady Stanley are also two coats of arms, the one showing the arms of Stanley and the other those of Stanley impaling Dillon. On the monument itself is the inscription :-
"Edward John, Baron Stanley of Alderley, born November 13th, 1802, Died June 16th 1869,"
and on the wall at the back of the recess the following one:-
"To the memory
of Edward John Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley
of Alderley, P.C.,
who, through a long political life
and in various offices during five Liberal administrations,
was ever distinguished by clearness of judgment,
By firmness in upholding religious liberty
and by uncompromising public spirit.
Amid all the occupations of an active career,
He still loved to be surrounded by his family,
And to seek rest in Alderley, his birth place,
Where now, beneath this chancel rebuilt by him,
his body lies buried."
Other memorials in the church deserving notice are those to Colonel John Stanley, who fought in the Crimea, and to Bishop Stanley. The former, which is in the shape of a medallion showing the head of Colonel Stanley in profile, is inscribed :-"Placed here by his wife in loving memory of John Constantine Stanley, Lieutenant-Colonel Grenadier Guards, Born Both September, 1837. Died 23rd April, 1878. Crimea 1855."
The memorial to Bishop Stanley is of Caen stone, and bears the inscription:-
The Right Reverend
Edward Stanley, D.D.,
second son of Sir John Thomas Stanley
of Alderley Park, Bart.
Born January 1, 1779.
Died September 6, 1849.
Thirty-two. years Rector of Alderley,
Twelve years Bishop of Norwich,
Where in the Cathedral Church,
his mortal remains repose.
To his beloved Parishioners
with whom when absent in the body
he was ever present in spirit,
So now being dead
he yet speaketh."
The charming old school-house at Alderley, which stands a few paces only from the west door of the church, is as great a delight to all visitors as the Elizabethan mill at Dunham Massey. Bishop Gastrell, writing in about the year 1700, mentions it as the " good school-house, built of freestone, partly standing in the church-yard, with a room below to teach in, and another above for ye master to lodge in." At that time the salary of the said master was about £12 per annum, being the interest from four endowments. The building is an extremely picturesque one of sandstone, with mullioned windows. On a square stone over the door are the words: " Mr Hugh Shaw, Clerk, built this School Ano 1628. Mr Thomas Deane de Park Endow'd it Jan: ye 30th 1694." Over two centuries later the school was extended by the then rector, the Rev. Edward Stanley, M.A., D.D. (afterwards Bishop of Norwich), and is accordingly inscribed in this part: " Erected by the Revd Edwd Stanley 1817."
The buildings of the old school-house, which are now used as parish assembly rooms, are in a wonderfully good state of preservation. The great internal timbers appear to be as sound as when they were first placed in position. Needless to say every feature of antiquarian interest receives the utmost care from the Stanley family at the present day, and we may therefore hope that through them not only the old school and church, but the country and cottages close to, will long retain their character as an entirely unspoilt Cheshire village of the best type, worthy of being the home of a family even so glorious as that of Stanley.