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Shugborough Hall in the 1820s.
Shugborough Hall in the 1820s.

Shugborough is a country estate in Milford, near Stafford, England, on the north-eastern edge of Cannock Chase. It comprises a country house, kitchen garden and model farm.

Shugborough is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. It is situated near Stafford and about four miles from the market town of Rugeley and which is also about 15 miles from the city of Lichfield. The house was enlarged around 1750 under the architect James Stuart. He also created follies and monuments in the grounds, including 'The Tower of Winds' — based on that in Greece — the Chinese House (a Chinese-style pagoda), an imitation of the arch of Hadrian, 'The Doric Temple', the Cat's Monument and the Shepherd's Monument.

On the Shepherd's Monument is the Shugborough House inscription, which is thought by some to be an uncracked ciphertext containing a clue to the location of the Holy Grail, a theory fueled by the ancestral ties of the Anson family to the Knights Templar. In recent years, codebreakers from the National Codes Center at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire were dispatched to try to unravel the elusive inscriptions.[1]

The entire estate was remodelled again at the turn of the 19th century. While the entire estate is owned by the National Trust, it has been maintained and operated by Staffordshire County Council since the 1960s on a 99-year lease.

Anne Margaret Coke, daughter of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (seventh creation) married Thomas Anson, 1st Viscount Anson, on Sept. 15, 1794, at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, where she was born. Her married name became Anson and she was styled Viscountess Anson on Feb. 17, 1806. Anne Margaret Coke Anson died in London in 1843 at age 64. She is buried at Shugborough.[2]

The grounds are connected to the nearby village of Great Haywood by the Essex Bridge, built in the middle ages, and also contain many sculptures as well as Stuart's follies.

Ornamental copy of Poussin's Arcadia at Shugborough
Ornamental copy of Poussin's Arcadia at Shugborough

The Lord of the Rings' author J.R.R.Tolkien stayed in Great Haywood during the winter of 1916/17 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 being 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. Shugborough Hall has about eighty chimneys.

Another fantasy author, Mark Chadbourn, features Shugborough and the mysterious bas-relief in the gardens 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.

The house contains a collection of photographs by the house's most illustrious resident, the royal photographer, the late Patrick Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield. Earl Lichfield was the first cousin, once removed, of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, his mother Anne Bowes-Lyon (1917 - 1980) having been a niece of the late Queen Mother. Patrick Anson was divorced from Leonora Anson, Countess of Lichfield, daughter of Robert Grosvenor, 5th Duke of Westminster. The Countess has retained her title despite the divorce and she has not remarried.

The grounds and mansion house are open to the public and include a working model farm museum dating from 1805 complete with a working watermill, kitchens and dairy, and rare breeds of farm animals and a tea room. The walled garden, also dating from 1805, was restored in 2006 and is also open to the public.

The house incorporates the historical servants' quarters. Within these the brewhouse is to be found, which was restored in 1990. It is the only log-fired brewery in the country that still produces beer commercially. Plans are in place to open this to the public every weekend from 2007 onwards.

Nearby is Milford Hall, the estate of the Levett Haszard family, who are related to the Ansons and who sit on the board of Shugborough.[3]

The Anson family purchased the Shugborough estate in the 17th century from Thomas Whitby. The Anson family of Shugbourgh produced some remarkable men, among them George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, George Anson (British soldier), General George Anson (1769-1849), George Edward Anson, and Thomas Anson (MP). There have been seven ships in the Royal Navy christened [[HMS Anson]] through the years honoring the first Baron Anson's circumnavigation of the earth.

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

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