Upton Cressett Hall

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are major building remains

NameUpton Cressett Hall
Alternative Names
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishUpton Cressett

The earthwork and buried remains of a moated site and associated water features at Upton Cressett Hall. Although medieval in origin, they appear to have been remodelled to create an ornamental garden during the late C16 or early C17. Within the moated island are the buried archaeological remains of the earlier manor house and those demolished parts of the present mid-C15 house.

Reasons for Designation

The moated site and associated water features at Upton Cressett Hall, together with the buried archaeological remains of the earlier manor house and those demolished parts of the present mid-C15 house are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

Survival: a well-preserved group of archaeological remains which, despite some landscaping in the late C20, represent the growth and development of this site from a moated medieval manor house to the ornamental water gardens of a fashionable late-C16 residence; as such they exhibit considerable longevity as monument types;

Potential: buried archaeological evidence for the layout and types of structures that formerly occupied the moated island will survive beneath the ground surface, whilst the moat ditches and the ponds will retain artefactual and environmental information relating to the occupation of the site and their subsequent re-modelling;

Historic interest: the post-medieval re-modelling of the moated site and the ponds to create an ornamental garden reflects the status and wealth of the Cressett family and will provide a valuable insight into garden design at that time;

Group value: they have strong group value with Upton Cressett Hall, its gatehouse and the former Church of St Michael, all of which are listed at Grade I, as well as the scheduled medieval settlement to the south-east

Taken together, these all provide evidence for the development of Upton Cressett since at least the C12, if not earlier.

History

Moated sites consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally waterfilled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern parts of England.

Garden designs dating between the early C16 and mid-C18 are numerous and varied, although most contain a number of recognisable components. For the C16 and C17, characteristic features included symmetrical water features such as canals and ornamental moats, as well as terraces, raised walkways and parterres. Formal gardens were created throughout the period by the Royal court, the aristocracy and county gentry, as a routine accompaniment of the country seats of the landed elite. Formal gardens of all sizes were once therefore commonplace.

The settlement at Upton Cressett was known as Ultone in the Domesday Book; a name which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Upton' meaning 'higher settlement'. In 1165, Upton formed part of the Barony of Fitz Alan, being held for some generations by the descendants of Alan de Upton. The Cressetts first appear as Lords of Upton towards the close of the C14, when the family succeeded to Upton and gave their name to the place. The present Upton Cressett Hall is a timber-framed building of the mid-C15 which was refashioned and encased in brick in the 1580s. The presence of the C12 Church of St Michael immediately to the north-east of the house and the medieval settlement attest to the fact that this house occupies the site of an earlier manor house. It is entirely probable that the original manor house at Upton Cressett was surrounded by a moat since this is a typical feature of many higher-status residences during the medieval period. However, based on their surviving form and character, the moat ditches and also the adjacent series of ponds to the north-west appear to have been modified, probably in the late C16 or early C17, as was the fashion at that time, to create an ornamental water garden around Upton Cressett Hall.

Details

The moated site is orientated north-west to south-east and has maximum dimensions of approximately 70m north-west to south-east and 60m south-west to north-east. Where the moat ditch survives as a visible earthwork, around the northern half of the site, it is up to 15m wide and between 2m and 3m deep. The southern sections of the south-west and north-west ditches have been mostly infilled and partly built over, but they will survive as buried features. The south-east arm of the moat has also been infilled and landscaped; its exact position cannot therefore be determined and it is not included in the scheduling. There is an outer retaining bank 1m high and 3m wide running the full length of the north-west and part of the north-east arm before it turns outwards slightly towards lower-lying land to the east. This feature is roughly parallel to the north-west elevation of the house and may be part of the remodelling carried out during the late C16/early C17. It probably represents the remains of a raised walkway from which both the house and the C12 church could be viewed.

The area defined by the moat ditches has been artificially raised; its south-east corner and much of the north-east side are occupied by the Grade I listed Upton Cressett Hall. This building comprises the remains of a mid-C15 aisled open hall house and a late-C15 cross wing and was altered in the late C16 and again in subsequent centuries. An historic building survey and evidence within the fabric of the building indicate that the aisled hall has been truncated, probably in the 1580s when the house was refashioned, and that it originally extended south-eastwards and may also have included further ranges which have since been demolished.

Adjacent to the north-west side of the moated site is a series of broad depressions, partly embanked, representing ponds constructed along the course of the stream. A linear bank, some 120m in length, runs parallel with the north side of the stream, and there are further banks at right angles to this one and also to the south which together define the ponds. These features have been somewhat degraded and the retaining dam has been breached, but they survive as earthworks. The ponds lie side by side; the larger one to the north-east measures approximately 12m by 60m, while that to the south-west is roughly 20m by 35m. The ponds may have medieval origins and were subsequently modified to form part of a late-C16/early-C17 ornamental water garden enhancing the grounds of Upton Cressett Hall, as well as being used for keeping fish. The stream and moat are supplied with water by springs located to the west of the site.

Upton Cressett Hall which is listed at Grade I, the agricultural buildings overlying the southern end of the south-west moat arm, the surfaces of paths and driveways, boundary walls, and all fencing and gate posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. (Scheduling Report 1991 amended 29-10-2012)

A gatehouse, dating from circa 1580-1600, to Upton Cressett Hall.

The late C16 gatehouse at Upton Cressett Hall is designated at Grade I, for the following principal reasons:

Date and rarity: the building dates from circa 1580-1600, and is an example of a now-rare building type: it is estimated that perhaps not more than 50 remain from the Elizabethan era;

Architectural interest: the gatehouse is a fine example of the type, which by this date is no longer intended as a defensive structure, but instead as a symbol of influence and wealth;

Historic interest: for its association with the Cressett family, who were prominent members of the Royal court in the Stuart era, and had held high office in the Tudor period;

Intactness: the building has suffered almost no losses since its completion, retaining the vast majority of its Tudor fabric both internally and externally;

Decoration: the first-floor rooms have significant contemporary plasterwork decoration, including an extensive overmantel, and varied ceiling decoration which includes obvious Recusant imagery, proclaiming the family's allegiance to the Catholic church at a time of persecution;

Lack of later alteration: the building has undergone almost no later alteration save for the insertion and later removal of some partitions to the attic floor;

Group value: for its intimate relationship with the adjacent Upton Cresset Hall and in its proximity to the Hall and the former Church of St Michael, adjacent, both listed at Grade I.

The settlement at Upton Cressett was known as Ultone in the Domesday Book; a name which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Upton' meaning 'higher settlement'. In 1165, Upton formed part of the Barony of Fitz Alan, being held for some generations by the descendants of Alan de Upton. In the C13, the de Uptons were Verderers of the Royal Forest of Morfe. The Cressetts first appear as Lords of Upton towards the close of the C14, when the family succeeded to Upton through marriage and gave their name to the place. Upton Cressett Hall is primarily a mid-C15 building which appears to occupy the site of an earlier house that stood within a moated site, and attested by the close proximity of the C12 Church of St Michael immediately to the north-east and the medieval settlement to the south-east. The present house has a complex history; its earliest part has been dated by dendrochronology to 1431 and was built for Hugh Cressett, a Royal Commissioner along the Welsh March and Constable of Mortimer Castle. He and his son, Robert, were successively Members of Parliament and Sheriffs of Shropshire. When built, it was a timber-framed house of some status with an open aisled hall, a solar wing at its north-east end, and at least one other cross wing. It is claimed that the future Edward V stayed at Upton Cressett in April 1483 on his fateful journey from Ludlow to the Tower of London. In circa 1498 a further timber-framed cross wing was constructed on the same alignment (north-west to south-east) as the solar wing. Although parts of the building were later demolished, what remains of this building reflects the wealth and status of the Cressett family during the later medieval period.

In 1580 the house was substantially remodelled by Richard Cressett, who served as Sheriff of Shropshire in 1584 and went on to contribute a substantial amount of money to the Armada Fund some four years later. The building was encased in brick, large brick chimneystacks were added to the east side of the house and, probably also at this time, the hall was ceiled over to create first-floor rooms. The three-storey gatehouse, also of brick, was erected to the south-east of the house in circa 1580-1600. Richard's successor in 1601 was Edward Cressett, a prominent royalist who was killed at the Battle of Bridgnorth in 1646; his son Sir Francis Cressett became Steward and Treasurer to Charles I and thus a significant member of the Royal court. Prince Rupert reputedly stayed in the gatehouse whilst escaping from Parliamentary forces during the Civil War.

A second property, Cound Hall near Shrewsbury, was built for the Cressett family in 1703-04 and became their principal seat from 1792 when Elizabeth Cressett died leaving her estates to her maternal uncle, Henry Pelham, of Sussex. At about the same time Upton Cressett Hall underwent alterations, including the demolition of some parts of the building, and became a farmhouse. It was bought by Sir Herbert Smith, a carpet manufacturer and owner of Witley Court in Worcestershire, in circa 1937 to use as a shooting lodge. After his death in 1943, the house was unoccupied and both house and gatehouse gradually fell into partial dereliction; survey photographs for the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England dating from 1957 and 1967 show that by the mid-1950s the gatehouse had several holes in the floors, fireplaces had been partially or completely blocked, and the windows were in a poor state of repair. The site was purchased by the parents of the current owner in 1969 and the house, gatehouse and farm buildings have since been restored.

MATERIALS: the building is constructed from brick, diapered in parts, with a mixture of moulded brick and rendered dressings. The roofs are covered in plain clay tile.

PLAN: the building is set to the south-east of Upton Cressett Hall, aligned on its entrance. The building has octagonal towers at the corners on the north side, facing the Hall, and a central passageway running through the ground floor.

EXTERIOR: the building is of two storeys and attic, set on a high plinth with moulded brick capping, with small areas of stone in the plinth. The walls are of brickwork, diapered in parts. The windows are mainly mullioned or mullioned and transomed, with ovolo mouldings, of one, two or three lights, each with diamond-pattern glazing.

The south elevation, facing away from the house, is of three bays. There is a projecting chimney to either side of the central archway, each chimney rising up to two conjoined diagonal shafts, with a gable dormer between them. The central archway is of brick, of two chamfered orders with a four-centred head, and is flanked by two small single-light windows with drip courses over. To the first floor are two windows of two transomed lights with drip courses over. Ground and first-floor windows have brick jambs and mullions. The attic window is of two lights, and is set in the gable, which has stone coping.

The elevation facing the house is of three bays, with a central gable between two octagonal corner turrets. There is some black brick but not regular diapering. The ground floor has the other face of the central passageway with the same four-centred arch of moulded brick with two orders of chamfering, and small flanking windows to match the opposite elevation. The first floor has a central window of four mullioned and transomed lights with moulded brick jambs, mullions and transoms. The attic window, set in the gable, has a two-light window. The turrets have small single-light windows in rendered surrounds winding around the turrets. The conical turret roofs are finished with ball finials.

The right and left returns are similar, each having a central asymmetrical gable adjoining a turret, with a single window to each storey. Ground and first floors have two- and three-light windows with brick jambs, mullions and transoms and projecting drip courses; that to the ground floor of the east side has been blocked and replaced with a four-centred arched opening to its left. The attic windows are of two lights, matching those in the north and south elevations. The gables have stone coping. To the attic storey brickwork extends in line with the plane of the angled wall of the turret to reach across onto the elevation, creating a hanging feature.

INTERIOR: the interior is divided by original square-framed partitions; doors include panelled examples dating from the C16 and C17. The central open passage, which is built in brick, houses three doorways, one to the east and two to the west, under timber lintels. To the ground floor, the eastern room has a brick-lined fireplace with timber bressumer over. A door gives access into the north-eastern turret, which now houses services. The ground floor of the western side is divided into two, a room and a passage, by an original timber-framed partition in three bays, one of which houses a doorway with a chamfered frame, which gives access to the kitchen. This room has C20 fixtures and finishes. The passage gives access to the stair in the north-western turret. The stair has solid oak treads winding around a central, round, oak newel post. The undersides of the treads have deep chamfers and run outs.

The first floor is divided by original square-framed partitions to provide a passage running across the width of the building on the north side, and two equally-sized rooms in the remainder. The corridor has a plain plaster ceiling with moulded borders. The doorways to the southern rooms are set within the square-framed partition, and are chamfered. The rooms have large ceiling beams with chamfers and crisp ogee stops; the beams run north-south, and continue across the corridor. Both rooms have extensive plaster decoration to their ceilings. The eastern room has a fireplace with brick piers and a timber bressumer with a very shallow, chamfered, four-centred arch, supported by moulded stone corbels. Above the fireplace, a section of small-square panelling with moulded edges. The eastern wall has a small timber lintel indicating the site of a blocked opening, or possibly a wall cupboard, as there is no indication of a blocked opening in the exterior. The bays of the ceilings each have a narrow moulded border. The ceiling of the eastern bay has a design with a central Catholic sacred heart embossed 'IESV' {JESU} surrounded by strapwork, between four portcullis badges and four sets of Prince of Wales feathers, enclosed by raised mouldings and surrounded by flowers, cartouches and fleurs-de-lis. The smaller bay in this room has a star of four panels, in each of which is a section of strapwork forming the border to a cartouche. Between each panel is a fleur de lis, with a Tudor rose at one end and a strapwork cartouche at the other. The western room has a fireplace similar to that in the eastern room, though the bressumer has an additional moulded cornice. Above it, the plastered wall surface is divided into geometric panels by moulded plaster ribs. These panels enclose a variety of motifs, including a Catholic sacred heart with embossed 'IESV' {JESU}, fleurs de lis, portcullises, Prince of Wales feathers, cartouches, Tudor roses and strapwork. Above this is a plaster frieze using a variety of moulds, including elements of strapwork.

The room in first floor of the north-eastern turret is fitted out as a modern bathroom, with late-C20 finishes. The stair in the north-western turret continues up to the attic storey, which is a single open space. There are no fireplaces, but set against the stacks at the rear of the room are two small brick structures resembling narrow fireplaces, with very narrow, round arched openings. Whilst it is possible that these might have been used to make very small fires, it is also possible that they simply allowed warm air from the fires and stacks below and behind to filter into and heat the room. The north-eastern turret, accessed through a panelled door set in a chamfered frame, is fitted out as a modern bathroom. The two roof trusses have interrupted tie beams, upright posts and high collars; there are twin purlins and a ridge piece. The roof structure is complicated by the gables to front and rear, which in effect form a cross-wing, and two small gables which tie the stacks to the main structure. The turret roofs each have common rafters rising to the top of a chamfered post, which stands on the centre of a chamfered tie beam. (Listed Building Report 2012)

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.

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. (William Cash)

Gatehouse Comments

Gatehouse thanks William Cash for much help with this record.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO655924
Latitude52.5281105041504
Longitude-2.50843000411987
Eastings365500
Northings292400
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Marian All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Jenkins, Simon, 2009, England's Thousand Best Houses (Penguin)
  • Moran, Madge, 2003, Vernacular Buildings of Shropshire (Logaston Press) p. 22, 71, 119, 121, 122, 126, 130, 353, 354, 364-5, 504, 505, 506
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 479
  • Fedden, R. and Kenworthy-Browne, J., 1979, The Country House Guide (Jonathan Cape)
  • Rowley, Trevor, 1972, The Shropshire Landscape (Hodder and Stoughton) p. 123-4
  • Stackhouse-Acton, Frances, 1868, The Castles and Old Mansions of Shropshire (Shrewsbury) p. 39 online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1854, Antiquities of Shropshire (London) Vol. 1 p. 138-46 (history only) online copy

Journals

  • 7 Dec 2011, 'Restored Upton Cressett Hall wins hidden gem award' Shropshire Star online copy
  • Thomas, Neil, October 2011, Shropshire Magazine online copy
  • Goodall, John, 17 August 2011, 'A decorative dilemma Upton Cresett Hall, Shropshire' Country Life p. 54-57 online copy
  • 11 April, 2002, Country Life

Guide Books

  • anon, nd (1970s), Upton Cressett Hall Near Bridgnorth, Shropshire online copy

Other

  • English Heritage, 1992, Scheduling Papers (New Scheduling, 23/11/1992)