Shugborough Hall 01

Shugborough Hall today

Shugborough is a country estate in Great Haywood, Staffordshire, England, 4 miles from Stafford on the edge of Cannock Chase. It comprises a country house, kitchen garden, and model farm. Owned by the National Trust and maintained by the leaseholder, Staffordshire County Council, it previously belonged to the Earls of Lichfield, the Anson family.


Shugborough Hall Jones' Views 1829

Shugborough Hall in the 1820s.

The Shugborough estate was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield until the Dissolution of the Monasteries and therefter passed through several hands until it was purchased in 1624 by William Anson, a lawyer, of Dunston, Staffordshire[1]

In about 1693 his grandson William Anson (1656–1720) demolished the old house and created a new mansion.[1] The entrance front then to the west, comprised a balustraded three-storey, seven-bayed central block . In about 1748 his great grandson Thomas Anson commissioned architect Thomas Wright to remodel the house, which was extended with flanking two-storey, three-bayed pavilions linked to the central block by pedimented passages.[1] At the turn of the 18th century the house was further altered and extended by architect Samuel Wyatt, when the pavilions and passages were incorporated into the main building and a new porticoed entrance front with ten Doric order pillars was created at the east.[1] for Thomas Anson, the 1st Viscount Anson and his wife Anne Margaret Coke, daughter of Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, whom he married in 1794. Styled Viscountess Anson in 1806, Anne Margaret Coke Anson died in London in 1843 and was buried at Shugborough.

Around 1750 the architect James "Athenian" Stuart, created a number of follies and monuments in the grounds. These include the Tower of Winds (based on one in Greece), the Chinese House (a Chinese-style pagoda), a triumphal arch based on Hadrian's, a Doric Temple, the Cat's Monument, and the Shepherd's Monument.

The grounds are connected to the village of Great Haywood by the Essex Bridge, built in the Middle Ages, and contain numerous sculptures in addition to Stuart's follies.

Nearby is Milford Hall, the estate of the Levett Haszard family, who are related to the Ansons and who sit on the board at Shugborough.[2]

Family HistoryEdit


Illustration from French volume illustrating George Anson's voyage around the world

The Anson family who purchased the estate in the 17th century from Thomas Whitby of Great Haywood, Staffordshire produced some famous men, including Admiral George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, George Anson (British soldier), General George Anson (1769-1849), Thomas Anson (MP), Dean of Chester Frederick Anson and his sons George Edward Anson and Frederick Anson, Canon of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Seven ships in the Royal Navy have been christened HMS Anson, honouring the first Baron Anson's circumnavigation in the 1740s.

The house contains a collection of photographs by the house's recent resident, the royal photographer, the late Patrick Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield (1939-2005). Through his mother Anne (1917–1980), he was a first cousin, once removed, of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, his mother having been a niece of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother. The 5th Earl of Lichfield married in 1975 Lady Leonora Grosvenor, daughter of the 5th Duke of Westminster. After divorcing in 1986, the Countess of Lichfield retained her title and has not remarried.

The Shepherd's MonumentEdit

Shugborough inscription

The Shugborough inscription, still unsolved

The Shepherd's Monument has been internationally well-known since 1982, when the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail drew attention to the mysterious Shugborough inscription. Carved by an unknown 18th-century craftsman, this has been called one of the world's top uncracked ciphertexts.[3][4] Theories have abounded, including some which suggest it may indicate the whereabouts of the Holy Grail, an idea fuelled by the Anson family's ancestral ties to the Knights Templar.

In January 2011 the British press revealed that A. J. Morton had solved the code. The letters O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V. & D.M., the Times explained, were probably created for, by, or in memorial of, Viscount Anson and his wife Mary Vernon-Venables.[5]

In recent years, codebreakers from the National Codes Center at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire have tried unsuccessfully to decipher it.[6] Before them, it is said that Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens also tried, and similarly failed.

Numerous explanations have been put forward, linking the code to the Priory of Sion, the Holy Grail and UFO's.

One more modest and romantic theory is that the inscription is a secret message between two lovers.[7]

Noted guestsEdit

Shugborough arcadia

Ornamental copy of Nicolas Poussin's Arcadia at Shugborough

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, stayed in Great Haywood during the winter of 1916/17[citation needed] and in his story 'The Tale of the Sun and the Moon' (The Book of Lost Tales 1) he writes about a gnome called Gilfanon who owned an ancient house "...the House of a Hundred Chimneys, that stands nigh the bridge of Tavrobel". Tavrobel he describes as a village near the confluence of two rivers. If you stand on the Essex Bridge, you can see where the river Sow meets the river Trent, and Shugborough Hall has about 80 chimneys.

Another fantasy author, Mark Chadbourn, features Shugborough and the mysterious bas-relief on the Shepherd's Monument in his novel The Hounds of Avalon, part of The Dark Age sequence. In the novel, the gardens provide a point of access to the magical Otherworld of Celtic mythology.

Nicolas Poussin's Arcadia and the inscription also figure prominently in the fiction work by Steve Berry, The Alexandria Link. They are used to find the location of the Library of Alexandria.

The Present DayEdit

The estate was gifted to the National Trust by the Anson family in 1960 in lieu of death duties[1]: it is managed on behalf of the owners by the Staffordshire County Council. The family resided in private apartments in the house until April 2010. Following the death of Patrick Lichfield on 11 November 2005, the private apartments were opened to the public in March 2011 where they can be viewed during a visit to the house.

The grounds and mansion house are open to the public. The attraction is marketed as "The Complete Working Historic Estate", which includes a working model farm museum dating from 1805 complete with a working watermill, kitchens, a dairy, a tea room, and rare breeds of farm animals. The walled garden, also dating from 1805, was restored in 2006 and also forms part of the attraction.

In addition, the house contains the historic servants' quarters and, within these, a Brewery. Originally restored in 1990, this is England's only log-fired brewery that still produces beer commercially, through a partnership with a local brewery. Previously used only on special occasions, the brewhouse has been a working exhibit since 2007.


The parkland in which the house stands is used to stage a number of events throughout the year.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Shugborough by Gervase Jackson-Stops for the National Trust (1980)
  2. The Genealogy of the Existing British Peerage and Baronetage: Containing the Family Histories of the Nobility, Edmund Lodge, Norroy King of Arms, London, 1859
  3. "Top 10 Uncracked Codes". The List Universe. Retrieved on 2008-11-24.
  4. Belfield, Richard (August 2007). The Six Unsolved Ciphers: Inside the Mysterious Codes That Have Confounded the World's Greatest Cryptographers. Ulysses Press. ISBN 1-56975-628-7. 
  5. J. McNee, "Irvine Historian May Have Solved Ancient Puzzle", Irvine Times Jan 26 2011 p.1 & 12
  6. New Puzzle for Code Breakers, BBC News,
  7. Bell, David (2005). "12", Staffordshire Tales of Murder & Mystery, Murder & Mystery. Countryside Books, 108. ISBN 1-85306-922-1. 

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Coordinates: 52°48′00″N 2°00′47″W / 52.8000°N 2.0130°W / 52.8000; -2.0130

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