Family Trees

Standing in a small area of woodland on the edge of a field in Leomansley is a stone with the inscription ‘Greville’s Belt W.W.W 1923‘. It isn’t a gravestone, although you can see why some have mistaken it for one, but a marker erected by the then owner of the Maple Hayes estate, William Worthington Worthington, to commemorate the planting of this small belt of trees, named after his eldest son (William) Greville Worthington.(1)

In 1918, William Worthington had inherited Maple Hayes from his father Albert Octavius Worthington, a partner in the Burton brewery that carried his family name, who had originally purchased the estate in 1884. However, Greville Worthington would not inherit the estate from his father. In the early hours of 17th March 1942, whilst serving as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve at Dover, Greville drove through a restricted area. Although the sentry on duty ordered him to ‘Halt!’ twice, he failed to stop.The sentry opened fire and Greville was fatally wounded, dying in hospital ten days later. A verdict of accidental death was recorded. In the October of the following year, there was another family tragedy.  Lady Diana Worthington, Greville’s former wife, went missing from her home Weston Manor in Olney. A scarf and a coat were found on the banks of the River Ouse and after a week of searching, Diana’s body was recovered from the water.

Greville and Diana had four children together – Caroline, Anna, Charles and Benjamin. I have not yet been unable to find out much about what happened to the children following the deaths of their parents. However, we do know that when William Worthington died in 1949, nineteen year old Charles was his heir. (2)  William’s death brought the Worthington era at Maple Hayes to an end and in 1950, the estate was sold. The house and around twenty three acres were acquired by Staffordshire County Council for educational purposes. Since 1981, the site has been occupied by the Maple Hayes Dyslexia School. The remainder of the estate, some 1,500 acres including farms, cottages and agricultural land, was sold to a trust.(3)

As well as Greville’s Belt,  other areas of woodland were named after Worthington family members. Lady Muriel’s Belt, Herbert’s Spinney and Fitzherbert Firs still appear on maps of the area, as mentioned in BrownhillsBob’s recent post on Leomansley. Are there more stone markers to be found in these places?  I also noticed a house on the site of the old playground of Christ Church School, near to the church, which has a plaque saying ‘W.W.W 1920‘. Surely another reference to William Worthington Worthington, although exactly what the connection is I don’t know as yet.  The Worthington family may no longer reside at Maple Hayes but their names still echo in the landscape that surrounds their former home.

Notes

(1) I have seen similar stones marking ‘Parker’s Plantation’ and ‘The Roundabouts’ at the Pipe Hall Farm, owned by The Woodland Trust.

(2) W.G.W had a younger brother Albert Ronald Worthington, born 1904 and died in 1951. but according to the County History, it was grandson Charles, eldest son of W.G.W that was W.W.W’s heir.

(3) Until last year, around 360 acres of the former Maple Hayes estate was still owned by the trust. However, in April 2012 it was sold to new owners The Crown Estate for just under three million pounds.

Sources

Burntwood: Manors, local government and public services’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 205-220.

The Lichfield Mercury archives

Nottingham Evening Post archive

 

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9 thoughts on “Family Trees

  1. The children would have been made care of the parish most likely workhouse or a college that trained them in husbandry farming . They may also have been adopted by a relative on either side of the family …check wills and births deaths for next of kin …most likely they became orphans of the parish…the property and its contents without a will would have been sold off and given to the Parish …they may have been sent to the colonies america australia canada

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    • Thanks. I think they would most likely have lived with relatives. I just wonder which ones & why the decision was taken to sell Maple Hayes? The Worthingtons were an incredibly wealthly family who owned much of the land where I live & were very influential during the sixty or so years they lived in the area & I’m very interested in finding out more about them & how they helped to shape the landscape as we know it today.

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      • My great grandfather would of been a cousin or nephew of William Worthington. His name was John and was born in 1860 christened at St Michaels Lincoln he marred Jane came from a wealthy family of lawyers. Great grandpa was a carpenter so he would of came from the carpenter business which closed down in the UK 1999. In Australia he owned a hardware store, joinery, the funeral parlour and a farm. Due to an early death Jane married the funeral director because in those days their was no choice. But she loved John and when she died she was buried with him. Apparently he was a kind hearted man and I believe that is why Lady Diana Worthington would of took her own life because of the passion. Knowing the stories that I have recently heard if the estate was in our hands we would keep it as the dyslexic school as my family has strong line of teachers. But the taxpayers funding the rest of the upkeep of the land the Worthington’s would not like and my family would of opened the property up for tourism. This will be achieved by getting the dyslexic kids to adopt literacy skills by telling the history to tourists.
        My family tree is http://higgonclan.tripod.com/Dunkley/worthingtonwilham.htm
        I wish to update it but cannot contact the writer.
        I hope to visit that site on day. Thank you for reading this Denise.

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  2. What a sad story – but it’s a good example of the way the past is hidden away beneath buildings and parts of the landscape that we just take for granted. It’s one of the things I love about local history.

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    • Me too. I love discovering the stories that the landscape tells, although some are much harder to uncover than others! I had no idea that these sad events had taken place and that they may be part of the reason the estate was sold.
      I have also been looking at Stowe House’s history, after reading ‘How to create the perfect wife’ & have found tragedy linked to that house’s history too. Perhaps I’ll write about Stowe House another time but for now it’s time to lift the mood a little….

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  3. Reading your latest article “Treasure Hunt” jogged my memory.

    One of the reasons for the naming of a wood, covert or spinney etc, by some of the landowners, was the great passion for foxhunting. What better than a mention in hunting circles!

    Regards Pedro

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    • Of course it all makes sense now! Thanks Peter it’s great when all threads come together so big thanksfor helpingme to build a picture of how the Leomansley landscspe came to be! Cheets Kate

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  4. Pingback: A walk in the woods | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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