|Armitstead of Cranage Hall|
John left one surviving son by each of his two marriages. The elder, Lawrence Armitstead (1790-1874) inherited Cranage Hall and the advowson of Sandbach, but did not himself become a clergyman. Instead, when a vacancy finally occurred in the living in 1828, he appointed his half-brother, Rev. John Armitstead (1801-65), who became the first of three generations of the family to serve the parish as vicar over a period of more than a century.
In 1828 Lawrence Armitstead decided to rebuild Cranage Hall, and it would appear that he leased the adjoining Hermitage estate at Holmes Chapel to provide a home for himself while the works were in progress. The 970-acre Hermitage estate was put on the market while he was living there, and he bought it, no doubt recognising that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to give his new house at Cranage a continuous estate of appropriate size. It is not clear whether there was enough capital left from his mother's fortune to pay for these investments, or if his own marriage in 1829 (to a clergyman's daughter) contributed significantly, but his outlay over a short period in 1828-30 was very considerable. Sadly, his marriage was cut short by the death of his wife in 1836, leaving only two daughters, both of whom were unmarried. When the only one of them to survive him, Agnes Anastasia Armitstead (1831-77) died, Cranage Hall passed to her cousin, Canon John Richard Armitstead.
Canon John Richard Armitstead (1829-1918) succeeded his father John as vicar of Sandbach in 1865, and held the living until his death, aged nearly 90. Both men were hugely energetic, progressive and socially active low-church clergymen, and they made a transforming difference to the town of Sandbach. The father concentrated on building and rebuilding the town's churches, schools and almshouses and extending educational opportunities (the National Schools at Sandbach were regarded nationwide as models); the son on promoting public health and other improvements through the Local Board and Urban District Council, which he ran almost as a personal fiefdom for more than twenty years.
Both men lived in the handsome vicarage which John had built at Sandbach, and after Canon Armitstead inherited Cranage Hall in 1877 it was let to a series of tenants, the last of whom was William Oswald Carver, a Manchester businessman. In 1920 he bought the freehold from the Canon's eldest son, the Ven. John Hornby Armitstead (1868-1941), who was the third of his family to be vicar of Sandbach, and who was latterly also Archdeacon of Macclesfield.
Canon Armitstead had five sons, the eldest three of whom went into the church while the younger two went out to Canada and became pioneer farmers in northern Alberta.
|Stoke Court, Greete. Image: Richard Webb. Some rights reserved|
Cranage Hall, Cheshire
There was a modest and apparently 17th century three-storey house here, of five bays with a narrow, projecting central porch, which was rebuilt in 1828-29 by Lewis Wyatt for Lawrence Armitstead. Wyatt's house is a rather early and very half-hearted essay in Tudor revival, with mullion-and-transom windows and some asymmetry but no gables or decorated chimneys to give vertical emphasis, and an outline and massing that are still Georgian. The facades, crowned by a high stone parapet, are treated in a severe, planar way that gives the house an unappealing blocky masculinity that is softened only a little by the warmth of the orange Cheshire brick and limestone dressings. Wyatt continued his development of a neo-Elizabethan style at nearby but rather larger Eaton Hall, Congleton, which was built in 1829-31 but has since been demolished. Cranage is built on an unusually long and narrow plan, with the service accommodation at the northern end (the left hand side of the photograph above); in 1929 the family accommodation included an entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, library, smoking room and 14 bedrooms. The park was presumably laid out at the same time as the house was built.
|Cranage Hall, from the Ordnance Survey 6" map surveyed in 1873-75 and published in 1882.|
The house became a mental hospital in 1929 and two low blocks were added at either end of the house probably in the 1970s or 1980s. These additions are relatively tactful if unappealing in themselves. The hospital closed in 1995 and the house was comprehensively ransacked by thieves for saleable fittings within months. The staircase was stolen, as well as all the panelling and oak doors and even the floorboards of the first floor rooms. The Hayley Group acquired the property and spent £10m on the restoration of the house as a hotel, conference centre and wedding venue, which opened in 1998.
Descent: Viscount Kilmorey sold 1660 to William Swettenham, who sold 1679 to Rev. William Harrison (d. 1686) of Icklesham (Sussex); to brother, Samuel Harrison (c.1639-1709); to son, Strethill Harrison (d. 1729); to brother, Samuel Harrison (d. 1736); to son, Samuel Harrison (fl. 1759); to son, Strethill Harrison (c.1749-1801); sold to John Procter (d. 1810); sold to Rev. John Armitstead (c.1764-1814); to son, Lawrence Armitstead (1791-1874); to daughter, Agnes Armitstead (1831-77); to cousin, Rev. John Richard Armitstead (1829-1918), who let the house (tenants included Harry Clegg; Robert Miller; Edward Horne (fl. 1899) and William Oswald Carver); to son, Ven. John Hornby Armitstead (1868-1941), who sold 1920 to the tenant, William Oswald Carver; sold 1929 to Cheshire Joint Board for the Mentally Defective; sold 1998 to Principal Hayley Group.
The Hermitage, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
A rambling, irregular house of red brick with sash windows, the product of many alterations, situated in a fairly remote and picturesque spot on the banks of the River Dane. It is recorded - as Ermitage - as far back as the 12th century, and the name may reflect its isolated location rather than the actual residence of a hermit, although that is a possibility.
It was originally a stone house of the 16th century built for the Winningtons. In 1702 the estate was purchased by Thomas Hall of Cranage who added a taller symmetrical brick house with a shell-canopied doorway and a hipped roof. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was variously extended around a courtyard; additions included a brick tower, canted bays overlooking the garden, and an Arts & Crafts roughcast extension with a curved bay window. The original 16th century wing was demolished in 1949 when the house was divided into three dwellings by A.C. Fairclough. More recently, the northern side of the house has been substantially remodelled and re-roofed.
Descent: Lawrence Winnington (fl. 1496); to son, John Winnington (fl. 1513); to son, Hugh Winnington; to brother, John Winnington (d. 1542); to son, Lawrence Winnington (d. 1573); to brother, Thomas Winnington (d. 1591); to kinsman, Hugh Winnington (d. 1623); to son, Lawrence Winnington, who sold c.1650 to John Leadbeater of Cranage (d. 1667); to son, Rev. Thomas Leadbeater (d. 1679), who licenced The Hermitage as a nonconformist place of worship; to son, John Leadbeater, who sold 1702 to Thomas Hall (1657-1715) of Cranage, ironmaster; to nephew, Thomas Hall (1702-49); to son, Thomas Bayley Hall (1745-1828); sold to Lawrence Armitstead (1791-1874); to daughter, Agnes Armitstead (d. 1876); to cousin, Rev. John Richard Armitstead (1829-1918)...
Armitstead family of Cranage Hall
Armitstead, Rev. John (c.1764-1814). Son of Lawrence Armitstead (b. 1735) and his wife Alice Clapham, born c.1764*. Curate of Betley (Staffs), 1784-88, and later at Clitheroe, Hawarden, Bawtry and Middlewich; curate of Goostrey in Sandbach, 1809-14. He was granted a coat of arms in 1797. He married 1st, 14 November 1787 at Betley (Staffs), Catherine (d. 1798), daughter and co-heir of John Fenton of Betley Court (Staffs) and 2nd, 1 June 1799 at Warton near Lancaster (Lancs), Mary Simpson (d. 1817) of Carlton (Yorks), and had issue:
(1.1) John Fenton Armitstead (b. & d. 1788), born 20 August 1788; died in infancy, 11 December 1788;
(1.2) Anastasia Armitstead (1789-1835), born 2 November 1789; married, 17 September 1812 at Bawtry (Yorks WR), Marmaduke Thomas Prickett (1775-1861), solicitor, of Kingston-upon-Hull (Yorks ER) and had issue three sons and three daughters; died 1835;
(1.3) Lawrence Armitstead (1790-1874) (q.v.);
(1.4) Catherine Armitstead (1792-1846), born 25 May 1792; lived at Sculcoates and died unmarried; buried at Sculcoates, 28 February 1846;
(1.5) Alice Armistead (1793-1839), born 30 December 1793; lived at Sculcoates and died unmarried, 20 December 1839;
(1.6) Thomas Fenton Armitstead (1795-96), baptised 15 December 1795; died in infancy and was buried 14 January 1796;
(1.7) Maria Armitstead (1798-1820), born 10 February 1798; apparently suffered from learning difficulties; died unmarried and was buried at Sculcoates (Yorks ER), 20 January 1820;
(2.1) Harriet Armitstead (1800-78), born 19 March and baptised at Middlewich, 10 November 1800; married, 26 August 1828 at Hull (Yorks ER), Thomas Davidson (1798-1869) and had issue two sons; died 7 April 1878; will proved 21 May 1878 (effects under £18,000);
(2.2) Rev. John Armitstead (1801-65) (q.v.);
(2.3) Frances Armitstead (1802-03), baptised 5 October 1802; died in infancy and was buried at Middlewich, 17 February 1803.
He appears to have inherited property around Bawtry and Austerfield (Yorks WR). On the death of his first wife, he inherited a considerable fortune which he invested in purchasing the advowson of Sandbach, and shortly before his death in 1814 he purchased Cranage Hall.
He was buried at Goostrey, 27 August 1814; his will has been transcribed here. His first wife died following the birth of her youngest daughter, 20 February, and was buried at Middlewich, 24 February 1798. His widow was buried at Goostrey, 24 September 1817.
* He died aged 50. Many sources give him as baptised at Tatham (Lancs) on 30 March 1764 but this entry appears to relate to another John, a member of a family settled at Tatham at this time, who died in 1813.
Armitstead, Lawrence (1790-1874). Only surviving son of Rev. John Armitstead (d. 1814) and his first wife, Katherine, daughter and co-heir of John Fenton of Betley Court (Staffs), born 16 November and baptised at Clitheroe (Lancs), 17 November 1790. Educated at Dr. Davies' academy, Macclesfield and Jesus College, Cambridge (matriculated 1809; BA 1813). High Sheriff of Cheshire, 1829. He married, 27 October 1829 at Holy Trinity, Chester, Harriet Vyse (c.1811-36), daughter of Rev. Richard Massie of Coddington (Cheshire), and had issue:
(1) Agnes Anastasia Armitstead (1831-77), born 8 October 1831; died unmarried, 27 February 1877 and was buried at Goostrey;
(2) Katherine Hester Armitstead (1833-73), born 26 February 1833; died unmarried, 30 December 1873 at Teignmouth (Devon), and was buried at Goostrey.
He inherited Cranage Hall from his father in 1814 and purchased the adjoining Hermitage estate of approx 970 acres in 1829. He lived at The Hermitage (presumably as a tenant) while Cranage Hall was rebuilt in 1828-29. At his death the estate passed to his surviving daughter and then to his half-nephew, Canon John Richard Armitstead (q.v.).
He died 31 October 1874 and was buried at Goostrey; administration of his goods was granted 13 February 1875 (effects under £4,000). His wife died 17 July, and was buried at Holmes Chapel, 23 July 1836, where she is commemorated by a monument.
Armitstead, Rev. John (1801-65). Only son of Rev. John Armitstead (1764-1814) and his second wife, Mary Simpson, born 24 February 1801. Educated at Trinity College, Oxford (matriculated 1819; BA 1823; MA 1826). Ordained deacon, 1824 and priest, 1825; vicar of Holmes Chapel, 1825-28 and of Sandbach (Cheshire), 1828-65; described as "a tireless mountain of a man", he was responsible for restoring Sandbach church and building three chapels in the large parish, rebuilding the Grammar School and setting up elementary schools, founding a set of almshouses and redirecting the parish charities to more useful purposes. He was an active pamphleteer, promoting education for the poor and campaigning against seven-day working in cheese-making, and was also a keen gardener, winning prizes for his pansies. As a cricket enthusiast he is said once to have postponed the celebration of Ascension Day by a week because it would have prevented him attending an England cricket match. JP for Cheshire. He married, 27 May 1828 at Holy Trinity, Chester, Hester Susannah (d. 1882), second daughter of Rev. Richard Massie of Coddington (Cheshire) and had issue:
(1) Canon John Richard Armitstead (1829-1919) (q.v.);
(2) Susan Hester Armitstead (1831-99), baptised 8 January 1832; married, 19 June 1877, Rev. Thomas Woodrow Dix (1835-1900), chaplain to Macclesfield Asylum, but died without issue; buried at Sandbach Heath, 23 February 1899;
(3) Rev. William George Armitstead (1833-1907), born 22 March and baptised 19 May 1833; educated at Westminster (Captain of the School) and Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1852; BA 1857; MA 1865); ordained deacon, 1859 and priest, 1860; vicar of Goostrey (Cheshire), 1862-1907; married, 25 May 1865, Mary Susan (d. 1868), daughter of Rev. William Currie of Boughton Hall (Cheshire) but had no issue; died 12 March 1907; will proved 5 April 1907 (estate £1,589);
(4) Mary Armitstead (1834-65), baptised 2 November 1834; married, 24 April 1862 at Sandbach, William Ferguson Currie (c.1828-66) of Boughton Hall (Cheshire) but had no issue; died Oct-Dec 1865;
(5) Rev. Sydney Henry Armitstead (1837-1912), baptised 23 June 1837; educated at Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1856; BA 1860; MA 1865); vicar of Sandbach Heath (Cheshire), 1862-1903; a keen huntsman, cricketer and fisherman; married, 7 October 1875, Margaret Bourne (1850-1937), second daughter of Henry Royds of Wavertree, Liverpool (Lancs) and had issue two sons and two daughters; retired to Glyn Garth (Anglesey) where he died, 29 January 1912; buried at Sandbach Heath; will proved 24 February 1912 (estate £6,571);
(6) twin, Robert Armitstead (1840-71), born 25 March and baptised 21 June 1840; educated at Westminster; an officer in 103rd Regiment (1st Bombay European Volunteers), 1857-68 (Lt. 1859; Capt., 1860; retired on half-pay, 1868); died unmarried, 31 July 1871;
(7) twin, Hamon Armitstead (b. 1840), born 25 March and baptised 21 June 1840; apparently emigrated to Australia*, where he died after 1872;
(8) Jessie Barbara Armitstead (1842-1918), born Jan-Mar 1842; a keen gardener and an amateur woodworker: she carved the reredos in Sandbach Heath church; married 1st, 3 August 1871 at Wybunbury (Cheshire), John Fletcher-Twemlow (c.1826-74) of The Hill, Sandbach (Cheshire) but had no issue; married 2nd, 12 July 1893 at Holy Trinity, Ayr (Ayrshire), Lt-Col. John Kennedy (1839-1913) of Brookside, Arclid (Cheshire) but had no issue; died at Tynron (Dumfriess), 5 September 1918; will proved in Scotland and sealed in London, 29 April 1919.
He lived at Springfield, Bradwall, 1825-32 and later at The Hermitage, until a new Sandbach vicarage was built in Smallwood in 1843.
He died 19 April 1865 and was buried at Sandbach Heath; he is commemorated by a memorial designed by G.F. Watts in the church at Sandbach; his will was proved 28 October 1865 (effects under £6,000). His widow died 24 April 1882 and was also buried at Sandbach Heath; administration of her goods was granted 6 June 1882 (effects £724).
* See "Can you help" below.
Armitstead, Canon John Richard (1829-1918). Eldest son of Rev. John Armitstead (1801-65) of Sandbach and his wife Susan Hester, daughter of Rev. Richard Massie of Coddington (Cheshire), born 11 May 1829. Educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1848; BA 1852; MA 1855; Student (Fellow), 1849-61). Ordained deacon, 1853 and priest, 1854; curate of Sandbach; vicar of Goostrey, 1859-62; rector of Wendlebury (Oxon), 1862-65; vicar of Sandbach, 1865-1918 and hon. Canon of Chester Cathedral; Chairman of Sandbach Local Board & Urban District Council, 1876-97; Alderman of Cheshire CC. He hunted with the Cheshire Hunt until an accident left him unable to ride. He married, 9 May 1866 at Acton by Nantwich (Cheshire), Frances Mary (1836-87), eldest daughter of William Henry Hornby MP of Poole Hall (Cheshire) and had issue:
(1) Mary Henriana (k/a May) Armitstead (1867-1952), born Jul-Sep 1867; died unmarried, 18 December 1952; her will was proved 24 February 1953 (estate £2,035);
(2) Ven. John Hornby Armitstead (1868-1941) (q.v.);
(3) Rev. Lawrence Armitstead (1870-1938) (q.v.);
(4) Rev. Edward Armitstead (1872-1950), born 10 September 1872; educated at Oswestry Grammar School and Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1891; MA 1899); vicar of Goostrey, 1907-23 (during which time he lived at Jodrell Hall) and rector of Barthomley (Cheshire), 1923-36; a keen sportsman, he retired to Westbrook, Richard's Castle (Shropshire); married, Jul-Sep 1916, Cecilia Mary (d. 1938), daughter of John Kirkland Glazebrook of Twemlow Hall (Cheshire) but had no issue; died 15 October 1950; will proved 16 January 1951 (estate £93,268);
(5) Cecil Armitstead (1874-1957), born 13 January 1874; emigrated to Canada, 1892 and became a pioneer settler in northern Alberta at Stoneyhurst Farm, Onoway; married, 31 August 1898, Louise Jane, daughter of Thomas Taylor of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta (Canada) and had issue four sons and three daughters; died 1957;
(6) Geoffrey Armitstead (1875-1928), born 15 February 1875; emigrated to Canada; married and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 1928;
(7) Margaret Armitstead (1876-1949), born Oct-Dec 1876; married, 1 August 1917, Most Rev. Alfred George Edwards DD (d. 1937), Bishop of St. Asaph and later Archbishop of Wales, youngest son of Rev. William Edwards, vicar of Llangollen (Denbighs) but had no issue; died 8 May 1949; will proved 1949 (estate £13,164).
He inherited Cranage Hall from his cousin, Agnes Armitstead, in 1877, but let the house and never occupied it.
He died 16 September 1918, aged 89; his will was proved 4 December 1918 (estate £74,501). His wife died 9 December 1887.
Armitstead, Ven. John Hornby (1868-1941). Eldest son of Canon John Richard Armitstead (1829-1919) and his wife Frances Mary, daughter of William Henry Hornby MP of Poole Hall (Cheshire), born 31 August 1868. Educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1887; BA 1891; MA 1896). Ordained deacon, 1892 and priest, 1893; curate of Sandbach, 1892-99; Vicar of Holmes Chapel, 1899-1919 and of Sandbach, 1919-41; hon. Canon of Chester Cathedral, 1925-41; Rural Dean of Congleton, 1918-19 and later Archdeacon of Macclesfield, 1932-41; JP and County Alderman for Cheshire. He was unmarried and without issue, but he is said to have been devoted to Alison Carver of Cranage Hall, who married Rev. Dick Sheppard (1880-1937) of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, and who came to Armitstead as housekeeper after her husband died.
He inherited Cranage Hall from his father in 1918, but sold it in 1920.
He died 26 October 1941; his will was proved 9 January 1942 (estate £38,518).
Armitstead, Rev. Lawrence (1870-1938). Second son of Rev. John Richard Armitstead (1829-1918) and his wife Frances Mary, daughter of William Henry Hornby MP of Poole Hall (Cheshire), born 26 February 1870. Educated at Oswestry Grammar School and Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1889; BA 1892; MA 1898). Ordained deacon, 1898 and priest, 1899; curate of Combe Bissett (Wilts), 1898-1900 and Malpas (Cheshire), 1900-04; rector of Malpas 1904-1936 and hon. Canon of Chester Cathedral, 1904-36. He married, Jul-Sep 1906, Mary Elizabeth (1873-1950), daughter of Lt-Col. John Kennedy of Brookside (Cheshire) and had issue:
(1) Maj. William John Lawrence Armitstead (1909-44), born 1909; educated at Marlborough and Clare College, Cambridge; chartered accountant and later a stockbroker in Liverpool; served in WW2 with the Shropshire Yeomanry (Major) and died of a snakebite in India, 20 March 1944 and was buried at Trimulgherry, Madras (India), 21 March 1944; administration of goods granted 20 November 1944 (estate £8,231);
(2) Lt-Col. Robert Charles Henry Armitstead (1913-95) (q.v.).
He died as a result of a road accident, 19 July 1938; his will was proved 19 September 1938 (estate £10,819). His widow died 19 October and was buried at Malpas, 23 October 1950; her will was proved 29 January 1951 (estate £39,258).
Armitstead, Lt-Col. Robert Charles Henry (1913-95). Second son of Rev. Lawrence Armitstead (1870-1938) and his wife Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Lt-Col. John Kennedy of Brookside (Cheshire), born 1913. Educated at Shrewsbury School and Wadham College, Oxford (BA). An officer in King's Shropshire Light Infantry from 1934 (retired as Lt-Col.). High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1976. He married, 15 June 1940, Kathleen Pamela Wilson (1918-97) of Montreal (Canada) and had issue:
(1) (Helen) Elizabeth Armitstead (b. 1943), born 16/18 September 1943; married, 16 April 1966, Richard Nisbet Earle Raven MBE (1931-2011), housemaster at Shrewsbury School, and had issue one son and one daughter;
(2) Col. Edward Bradley Laurence Armitstead (b. 1946), of Pendomer House, Yeovil (Somerset), born 9 October 1946; educated at Shrewsbury and Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst; an officer in the Coldstream Guards from 1967 (retired as Colonel); appointed OBE 1992; CBE 2001; married, 5 April 1973, Caroline Elizabeth Massie Birch and had issue two sons and two daughters.
He rented Stoke Court, Greete (Shropshire) in the 1960s and 1970s.
He died 2 November 1995; his will was proved 9 May 1996. His widow died 14 September 1997; her will was proved 29 May 1998.
Burke's Landed Gentry, 1965, pp. 24-25; J.P. Earwaker, The history of the ancient parish of Sandbach... including the two chapels of Holmes Chapel and Goostrey, 1890, pp. 200-18; P. de Figueiredo & J. Treuherz, Cheshire Country Houses, 1988, pp. 226-7, 240; C. Hartwell, M. Hyde, E. Hubbard & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Cheshire, 2nd edn., 2011, p. 306; http://www.fitzwalter.com/afh/Armitstead/armithist2.html;
Location of archives
Armitstead of Cranage Hall: no significant archive is known to survive.
Coat of arms
Or, a chevron embattled counterembattled sable between three pheons azure, two flaunches gules, each charged with a tilting spear erect of the field, headed argent.
Can you help?
Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.
- Can anyone provide a photograph of The Hermitage or more details of its architectural development and ownership history?
- Can anyone locate the birth or baptism dates of either of the wives of John Armitstead (1764-1814)?
- Can anyone provide more information about the career of Hamon Armitstead (b. 1840), who appears to have emigrated to Australia? The last reference I can find to him in England is a reference in a family letter in 1854. An H.S. Armitage was part of a large group of miners who went out to Australia in 1863 during the Gold Rush, and I have found two references to a 'Hamon Armistead' in the Australian press in 1868 and 1872.
Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 31st July 2015.