A Short History of Upton Cressett Hall
The Manor of Upton Cressett was once the ancient home of the de Upton and Cressett families. The Hall as it stands today was built in the sixteenth century and is the oldest dated house built entirely of brick in Shropshire.
From the 14th century until 1919, the historic estate belonged to the Cressett family, or their descendants. After the Great War until 1970, when the Cash family rescued the Hall, the story of Upton Cressett is one of decline and neglect. But even when the Hall and Gatehouse were covered in ivy and derelict in the 1950s, architectural historians and conservation groups such as Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) were aware of the exceptional architectural interest of the house - and worked tirelessly to try and save the Hall.
In July 1953, the Duke of Grafton (right), president of the SPAB, visited Upton Cressett Hall with James Lees-Milne of the National Trust. So moved by what they saw, the Duke wrote to the then owner, Sir Herbert Smith, Bt, asking whether SPAB could help with restoration, especially the gatehouse which he thought was of exceptional architectural merit.
'We were very much impressed with the importance and and interest of the Gate House and the ..house (i.e the Hall) adjoining it, also with the church. Altogether they form one of the most interesting groups of buildings I have ever seen....I feel that Upton Cressett is of national importance and this Society is most anxious to help you over it' (16th July, 1953, Lord Euston to Sir Herbert Smith, SPAB archives). Click here to view the full letter.
The Hall and Gatehouse were not finally restored and saved until 1969 when Bill Cash - then a 30 year old lawyer in London with a young wife and son - spotted Upton Cressett on the SPAB's endangered property list and made further enquiries. Keeping the puchase of the dilipidated historic property a secret from his parents, whom thought he was 'mad' to take on such a restoration project, Bill Cash (and his wife Biddy) began renovation work in 1970, using the Ludlow-based conservation architectural firm of Treasure's, established in 1747.
The site of the Hall is ancient. It is recorded in the Domesday Book and in nearby fields there are the remains of a second century Roman settlement. The surrounding land is also the site of a deserted medieval village, traces of which remain as earthworks. A tiny Norman church, dedicated to St Michael, stands nearby and is maintained by the Redundant Churches Fund.
Parts of the Hall date to 1380 and are the remains of an earlier manor which belonged to the de Upton family. In the thirteenth century, the de Uptons were Verderers of the Royal Forest of Morfe and Knights and suitors to Holgate Castle, and the last of their line married into the Cressett family in the 14th century.
In the mid fifteenth century, Hugh Cressett, a Lancastrian, was a Royal Commissioner along the Welsh March, the Constable of Mortimer Castle and on the Duke of Exeter's Council. He also served as a Member of Parliament and as the Sheriff of Shropshire. His son Robert was a Yorkist lawyer who played an adventurous part in the Wars of the Roses. He is frequently mentioned in the Commissions of Array and was pardoned at the Devil's Parliament in December 1459 for rebellion after the Yorkists were defeated at Ludlow.
There is a long-standing tradition that the young Edward V, son of King Edward IV, and one of famed 'Princes in the Tower', stayed at the early manor in April 1483 on his fateful and hurried journey from Ludlow to the Tower of London. He had been anointed king at Ludlow Castle but for the coronation to be recognised he needed to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. The tradition is backed up by Cressett family reports. Hugh Cressett was well known to Edward IV and the remote position of the fortified manor of Upton Cressett made it an ideal safehouse. Upton Cressett is seventeen miles from Ludlow - exactly a day's march - and the royal party would have stayed at Upton Cressett before crossing the River Severn at Bridgnorth.
The Tudors & The Sixteenth Century
Robert Cressett's son, Thomas, was imprisoned by Henry VII in the Marshalsea, probably for conspiracy, but he escaped in 1503 and was pardoned in 1505. He did, however, supply soldiers for Henry VIII's French Wars of 1512-13 and the family were reconciled to the Tudor Throne.
During the reign of Elizabeth 1, Richard Cressett built the Gatehouse and, in 1580, encased the the medieval manor house in brick. He also made a substantial contribution to the Armada Fund in 1588 - the second largest in the county.
The Civil War & The Seventeenth Century
Edward Cressett succeeded Richard in 1601. Edward was a distinguished Royalist and served on the King's Council of War before being killed in battle at Bridgnorth in 1645. His son, Sir Francis Cressett (left), later became Steward and Treasurer to Charles I, and was one of the men who tried to rescue the King from Carisbrooke Castle in 1648. It is recorded that a troop of horse was garrisoned at the house and there is also a legend that Prince Rupert hid at Upton Cressett while escaping from the Parliamentary forces.
Edward's other son, Richard, inherited the estate. In 1648 information was laid against him as "having been in arms against Parliament".
The Hanoverian Succession & The Eighteenth Century
During the reigns of William and Mary and Queen Anne, Edward Cressett's grandson, James Cressett, was Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of Hanover and played an active part in the preparations for the Hanoverian Succession. Another descendent, also named James Cressett, became confidant and secretary to Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, and held the post of tutor and was later Treasurer and Secretary to the young George III.
In the early eighteenth century Robert Cressett (right) built another family property, Cound Hall near Shrewsbury, which became the principal seat of the family. The last of the Cressetts, Elisabeth, died in the eighteenth century, but the property remained in the Thursby-Pelham branch of the family until 1919.
Upton Cressett Hall had been neglected until the Cash family (Bill and Bridget Cash and their children William, Sam and Laetitia) moved in 1971 and began extensive renovation. Bill Cash (see portrait left) was elected as Member of Parliament for Stafford in 1984 and is currently MP for Stone, having served as Shadow Attorney General and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and over 27 years as an MP. He is the seventh owner of Upton Cressett to have served as a Member of Parliament. The Cressetts provided five Sheriffs of Shropshire from the fifteenth century onwards.
2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the Cash family (portrait right) living at Upton Cressett. Various phases of restoration have continued over the years concluding with a two-year refurbishment completed in January 2011. Upton Cressett Hall is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade 2 * listed building.
"Every house needs to be re-invented by the next generation and I am looking forward to using our secluded and romantic setting to put on some occasional special evening events that celebrate one of my passions: the best of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and poetry. This August we are hosting an open air production of Much Ado About Nothing on the Moat Lawn and other events will include an Elizabethan poetry and music evening with a newly commissioned dramatized performance of Andrew Marvell's 1651 country house poem Upon Appleton House"