|Ashton of Woolton Hall|
Nicholas Ashton had eleven children by his two marriages, but only the three sons by his second marriage and perhaps one of the daughters of his first marriage survived him. His eldest son was established at Hefferston Grange, but after he died in 1815 that house was let. His eldest surviving son, Joseph Ashton (1783-1836), who was educated as a gentleman at Eton, inherited most of his father's property and seems quickly to have sold the business interests. His son, Charles Ellis Ashton (1817-81), became one of the earliest members of the Liverpool stock exchange, but although he appears to have been financially successful, he sold Woolton Hall in 1865 and Hefferston Grange before 1876 and leased a number of houses, including Leeswood (Flints). His son, Charles Henry Ashton (1855-1908), followed his father into stockbroking, and the partnership he built developed into the modern firm of Ashton Tod McLaren. He seems to have leased Field House at Chester and later The Grange at Ellesmere (Cheshire) but after his early death the latter was given up and his widow and daughters moved away. The family name was continued by his younger brother, Lt-Col. Frederic Ellis Ashton (1867-1949), whose son Nicholas Charles Ellis Ashton (1904-86) was still included in Burke's Landed Gentry, although by the time of his death it was more than a century since the family had owned an estate.
Woolton Hall, Much Woolton, Liverpool, Lancashire
|Woolton Hall from an engraving of 1785. The older facade is to the right.|
In 1700 or 1704 the house was sold to Richard Molyneux (later 5th Viscount Molyneux), son of the builder of the west wing of Croxteth Hall (Lancs). He built the north range of the present house in c.1709-14. This has a six-bay two-storey north-facing facade, with a central pediment decorated with trophies and a cross moline (presumably a reference to the medieval ownership of the manor by the Knights Hospitallers), but there are two windows under the pediment, not three, an unexpected solecism. Furthermore, the first floor windows are squashed up into the frieze, leaving an uncomfortably deep area of blank ashlar between them and the ground floor windows. This is occasioned by the height of the very grand rooms within, but a more experienced architect would have masked the impact on the exterior. To the right is a two-bay addition, also of the early 18th century, and probably made after 1718, when Richard Molyneux succeeded to his father's viscountcy. The apsidal end of the range was added c.1865 for J.R. Jeffery, probably to the designs of Thomas Haigh & Co. of Liverpool (who in 1866-67 rebuilt the Compton House department store in Liverpool, of which Jeffery was owner, after a fire); they were perhaps responsible for the reglazing of the house with plate glass too.
|Woolton Hall: design by Robert Adam for a variant scheme to the one actually executed, n.d. [c.1774]|
Image: By courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum; Adam volume 30/45.
|Woolton Hall: the Adam east front of c.1774-80. The mid 19th century porch masks the three-storey centre. Image: Mr Beady|
The east front, built c.1774-80 for Nicholas Ashton, is a documented work by Robert Adam, but it is not one of his best designs. Actually, the only Adam design to survive for the house is for a variant scheme with considerably more elaborate decoration and a good deal more visual unity. As built, the elevation is of seven bays, grouped 2-3-2, with the right hand two bays representing the end of the early 18th century wing and taking their proportions from it. Adam added a pediment to these two bays, and placed medallions between the ground and first floors to make the proportions more satisfactory. This unit is repeated at the left-hand end of the facade. In between, is a three-bay, three-storey centre (probably representing a remodelling of a surviving part of the 17th century house with lower ceiling heights) with circular paterae in the top frieze. Originally, the facade had a semi-circular porch, but this was replaced c.1865 by a large porte-cochere which tends to mask the three-storey nature of the centre, In the late 19th century the house was extended to the south by a further four bay, three-storey block entirely fenestrated with tripartite windows.
|Woolton Hall: the house as extended to the south in the late 19th century.|
|Woolton Hall: the Tapestry Room was opened into the adjoining Drawing Room in the early 20th century. Image: Mr Beady|
|Woolton Hall: detail of the panelling in the north range.|
|Woolton Hall: the octagon room. Image: Mr Beady|
|Woolton Hall: the staircase hall. Image: Mr Beady|
In 1950 it was noted that "Long unoccupied, except in recent years by H.M. Forces, and severely damaged by enemy action, Woolton Hall has for several years been falling into decay. In recent months, however, it has been acquired by the Convent of Notre Dame, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, for use as a girls' school for paying pupils, and is now (February, 1950) being extremely well restored". The restoration appears to have involved the demolition of the late 19th century additions to the house. The article went on "It appears certain, therefore, that the Hall will regain its former dignity", but sadly this hope was not fulfilled for long. In the 1970s staggeringly ugly new school and convent buildings were built ridiculously close to the old building, blighting its future, and it ceased to be used for school purposes.
The house was last used as a club house and masonic lodge until 2006, but has been empty for some years. Plans for conversion into flats came to nothing, and that is perhaps a good thing as subdivision would be a poor outcome for a building with such significant interiors. Most other conceivable alternative uses would require the removal of the 1970s school buildings which hem the house in. Since the latter are not only shockingly contemptuous of their setting, but also provide a very poor aesthetic environment for the education of children, it is good to know that there are active plans for their demolition and the relocation of the school a little further from the house, which one hopes will allow an imaginative scheme for the house to emerge.
Hefferston Grange, Weaverham, Cheshire
|Hefferston Grange: entrance front|
A seven bay brick house of 1741, with a recessed three-bay centre, incorporating elements of an earlier building of c.1700 within the fabric. The doorway has a segmental pediment on consoles and there are quoins of even length and windows with prominent raised keystones. It is similar in detail to Daresbury Hall and probably by the same architect. Inside, there the ceiling of the staircase hall has Rococo plaster decoration, and there is a similar stucco ceiling in a first-floor room.
|Hefferston Grange: south front. Image: Dr. Duncan Pepper. Some rights reserved.|
The canted bay on the south end of the entrance front is an addition of 1776 for Nicholas Ashton. The house was altered again in 1876, which may be the date of the conservatory on the west front. In the 20th century the house was used as part of the Grange Hospital and after being allowed to deteriorate and being left empty for some years, it has recently been converted to flats as part of a group of new late 20th century houses.
Descent: Philip Henry (later Warburton) (1700-61); to sister Elizabeth, wife of John Philpot; to daughter Mary (1740-77), wife of Nicholas Ashton (1742-1833); to son, Joseph Ashton (1783-1836); to son, Charles Ellis Ashton (1817-81); sold by 1876 to Robert Heath...sold c.1920 to Warrington County Borough Council for use as a TB sanatorium; transferred 1948 to NHS as The Grange Hospital; sold 1986.
Ashton family of Woolton Hall and Hefferston Grange
(1) John Ashton (1737-59), born 20 March and baptised at St George, Liverpool, 14 April 1737; died unmarried and was buried at St George, Liverpool, 10 July 1759;
(2) Margaret Ashton (1739-1821), born 8 January and baptised at St George, Liverpool, 26 January 1738/9; died unmarried and was buried at Liverpool, 26 August 1821;
(3) Mary Ashton (b.1740), born 16 August and baptised at St George, Liverpool, 5 September 1740; probably died young;
(4) Nicholas Ashton (1742-1833) (q.v.);
(5) Anna Ashton (b. 1747; fl. 1824), born 11 August and baptised at St George, Liverpool, 28 August 1747; her portrait was painted by Joseph Wright of Derby; married, 5 December 1776, Thomas Case (1731-90) of Liverpool, Africa merchant (bankrupt, 1778), and had issue two sons;
|Nicholas Ashton, 1742-1833|
(1.1) Elizabeth Ashton (1764-1834?), born 5 October and baptised at Paradise St. Unitarian Church, Liverpool, 31 October 1764; married 1st, 14 June 1787 at Childwall, William Evans James (c.1750-95) and had issue two sons and one daughter; married 2nd, 10 April 1801 at Liverpool, Col. George Williams of Little Woolton (Lancs) and had further issue two sons and two daughters; probably the person of this name buried at St John, Liverpool, 30 October 1834;
(1.2) John Ashton (1765-1814), born 9 August and baptised at St Peter, Liverpool, 11 September 1765; painted as a child by Joseph Wright of Derby; educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge (admitted 1782); married, 26 April 1790 at Childwall, Mary Noble (1771-1863), second daughter of John Jarrett of Wavertree (Lancs) and Freemantle (Hants) and had issue four sons and four daughters; lived at Hefferston Grange; died at Crawley House (Hants) in the lifetime of his father, 9 December 1814; will proved 31 December 1814;
(1.3) Mary Ashton (1767-71), born 29 November and baptised at St Peter, Liverpool, 28 December 1767; buried at St George, Liverpool, 5 April 1771;
(1.4) Thomas Ashton (b. & d. 1769), born 22 June and baptised at St Peter, Liverpool, 19 July 1769; buried at St George, Liverpool, 30 December 1769;
(1.5) Sarah Ashton (b.? & d. 1771); died in infancy and was buried at St. George, Liverpool, 11 April 1771;
(1.6) Mary Ashton (1772-1841?) of Woolton Hall; mentioned in brother Thomas' will, 1815; head of household at Woolton Hall, 1841; perhaps died Jul-Sep 1841;
(1.7) Lt-Col. William Ashton (1773-96), born 23 September and baptised at Kaye St. Presbyterian Chapel, 21 October 1773; educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge (admitted 1791); Lt-Col. of 79th Regt.; died unmarried and without issue on active service in the Leeward Islands, 1796;
(1.8) Thomas Ashton (1775-1816) of Woolton Hall, born 2 November and baptised at Kaye St. Presbyterian Chapel, Liverpool, 11 December 1775; educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge (admitted 1792); died unmarried and was buried at Childwall, 3 January 1816; will proved 9 May 1816;
(2.1) Joseph Ashton (1783-1836) (q.v.);
(2.2) Rev. Ellis Ashton (1789-1869), born 15 April and baptised at Kaye St. Presbyterian Chapel, Liverpool, 10 May 1789; educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1807; BA 1811; MA 1813; BD 1821); ordained deacon and priest, 1813; Fellow of Brasenose College; vicar of Huyton (Lancs), 1813-69 and rector of Begbroke (Oxon), 1823-69, which he served through curates; rural dean of Prescot, 1845-69; a close friend of Edward Lear; married, 1 May 1834 at Walton-on-the-Hill (Lancs), Frances Colquit, and had issue a daughter; died at Huyton, 11 July 1869; will proved 27 August 1869 (effects under £16,000);
(2.3) Henry Ashton (1795-1870) of Poulton Hey, Bebington (Cheshire), born 4 October and baptised at Paradise St. Unitarian Chapel, Liverpool, 11 November 1795; married, 3 January 1825 at Childwall, Elizabeth Fletcher (1799-1871), and had issue eight daughters; died 22 December 1870; will proved 16 January 1871 (effects under £80,000).
He lived in Liverpool until he purchased Woolton Hall c.1772 and employed Robert Adam to remodel it, c.1774-80. He inherited Hefferston Grange in right of his first wife c.1775 and also made alterations there. Hefferston was occupied by his eldest son but let after the latter's death in 1814.
He died at Woolton Hall in December 1833, aged 91, and was buried at Childwall, 28 December 1833; his will was proved at Chester, December 1834. His first wife died 13 March and was buried at St John, Chester, 17 March 1777. His second wife died 12 May 1806.
(1) Charles Ellis Ashton (1817-81) (q.v.);
(2) Thomas Henry Ashton (b. 1819), born 21 January and baptised 18 February 1819; perhaps the man of this name who became an officer in 94th Foot (Ensign, 1839; Lt., 1841)
(3) Joseph Ashton (1820-47), born 13 June and baptised 26 July 1820; buried at Childwall, 2 September 1847;
(4) William Ashton (1824-25), born 26 June and baptised 27 July 1824; died in infancy and was buried at Childwall, 13 April 1825;
(5) John Ashton (b. 1826), born 10 July 1826 and baptised 10 January 1827; educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1845).
He inherited Woolton Hall and Hefferston Grange from his father in 1833.
He died 12 March and was buried at Childwall, 15 March 1836. His widow died 17 February 1852.
(1) Caroline Elizabeth Ashton (1852-1930), born Apr-Jun 1852; died unmarried, 7 January 1930; will proved 31 March 1930 (estate £2,369);
(2) Charles Henry Ashton (1855-1908) (q.v.);
(3) Ethel Mary Ashton (1860-1887), baptised at Woolton, 1 February 1860; married, 10 August 1882 at Mold (Flints), Edward Lloyd (d. 1914) of Hafod (Flints) and had issue a daughter; died 23 January 1887; administration of her goods granted to her husband, 18 March 1887 (effects £480);
(4) Joseph William Ashton (1865-1946), born 22 October 1865; educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1885); Assistant Secretary to the Yorkshire Liberal Unionist Federation in 1911; he was unmarried and without issue; died 6 May 1946; will proved 15 September 1946 (estate £101);
(5) Frederick Ellis Ashton (1867-1949) (q.v.);
(6) Maud Isabella Ashton (1869-1961), born Jul-Sep 1869; died unmarried, 16 April 1961, aged 91; will proved 2 August 1961 (estate £348).
He inherited Woolton Hall and Hefferston Grange from his father in 1836 and came of age in 1838. He sold Woolton Hall in 1865 and Hefferston Grange before 1876 and lived latterly at Leeswood, Mold (Flints).
He died 29 October 1881; his will was proved 5 December 1881 (effects £83,803). His widow died 10 February 1899; her will was proved 11 May 1899 (estate £2,396).
(1) Mary Jervis Ashton (1884-1976), born 22 February 1884; welfare worker with St Margaret's House, Bethnal Green in 1911; married, 3 February 1943, as his second wife, Rev. Mered John Rush (1872-1944), formerly vicar of Ellesmere and son of William Rush of Camelford (Cornw), but had no issue; died 4 April 1976, aged 92; will proved 3 August 1976 (estate £16,063);
(2) Annie Adelaide Ashton (1886-1934), born 31 May 1886; died unmarried, 3 April 1934; will proved 25 June 1934 (estate £13,510);
(3) Rose Caroline Ashton (1890-1966), born 3 November 1890; married 1st, 4 October 1915, Robin Cresswell Carver RFC (1877-1918) of Benha (Egypt) and had issue a daughter; married 2nd, 29 July 1922, Lt-Col. Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson KCIE CSI CMG DSO MP (1884-1940), son of Canon J.M. Wilson and had further issue one son and one daughter; married 3rd, 5 February 1947, as his second wife, Sir Humphrey Sumner Milford (1877-1952), kt. of The White House, Drayton St. Leonard (Oxon), publisher, son of Canon R.N. Milford; died 23 November 1966; will proved 17 March 1967 (estate £20,831);
(4) Ethel Ashton (1892-1971), born 7 September 1892; married, 24 September 1919 at Ellesmere, Maj. Eric Astell Wauton (1891-1963), son of Rev. Atherton E. Wauton of Bath, and had issue; died 29 October 1971; will proved 12 January 1972 (estate £14,596).
He lived at Field House, Chester and later at The Grange, Ellesmere (Shropshire), both apparently leased properties.
He died 20 November 1908; his will was proved 16 January 1909 (estate £30,228). His widow died 12 December 1933; her will was proved 17 February 1934 (estate £726).
|Lt-Col. F.E. Ashton|
(1) Gladys Lillian Ashton (1896-1982), born 30 October 1896; married, 31 December 1930, Gordon Stewart Nicoll (1897-1969) of Thursley House, Mayfield (Sussex), company director, but had no issue; died 7 November 1982; her will was proved 17 December 1982 (estate £60,551);
(2) Nicholas Charles Ellis Ashton (1904-86) (q.v.).
He lived at La Haule Cottage, St. Aubyn, Jersey (Channel Islands) in the early 20th century and later at Torquay (Devon).
He died 31 May 1949 at Staines (Middx); his will was proved 1 July 1949 (estate £1,357). His wife died 12 December 1948.
(1) Miren J. Concepcion A. Ashton (b. 1929), born 20 October 1929; married, Apr-Jun 1956, Dr. Michael L. Davis (1928-2013) and had issue a daughter; emigrated to Alberta (Canada), 1960; living in Calgary, 2013;
(2) Christine Anne M. Ashton (b. 1931), born 25 December 1931; married, Oct-Dec. 1959, John Noel Napier Ford (1932-2011) and had issue three sons; living in Guildford (Surrey), 2011;
(3) Yolande Georgiana Marie-Michelene Ashton (1936-83), born 20 January 1936; married, Jul-Sep 1957, William Victor Percy Crutchley (1933-2007) of Brown's Farm, Powerstock (Dorset) and had issue one son; died 27 July 1983; will proved 9 January 1984 (estate £266,200);
(4) Joseph Nicholas Charles Amedée Ashton (1937-2015), born 18 May 1937; married, Jan-Mar 1966, Jill D. Gemmell, and had issue a daughter; emigrated to New South Wales (Australia); buried 23 January 2015.
He lived at 29 Castelnau, Barnes (London) in the 1960s.
He died 17 July 1986 at Merrow (Surrey) and was buried at Compton (Surrey); his will was proved 8 October 1986 (estate £136,339). His wife died 11 April 1988 and was also buried at Compton, where she and her husband are commemorated by a gravestone; her will was proved 22 July 1988 (estate £143,948).
SourcesBurke's Landed Gentry, 1952, p. 65; S.A. Harris, 'Robert Adam (1728-92), architect and Woolton Hall', Trans. Historic Society of Cheshire & Lancashire, 1950, pp. 161-81; R. Pollard & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Lancashire - Liverpool and the south-west, 2006, pp. 509-10; C. Hartwell, M. Hyde, E. Hubbard & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Cheshire, 2nd edn, 2011, pp. 660-61;
Location of archivesNo significant archive is known to survive.
Coat of armsArgent, a mullet sable, a canton gules in chief, an annulet for difference.
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.
- If anyone is able to provide additional career information or genealogical details for this family, I should be very pleased to hear from them. In particular, I feel that the date of death of Anna Case (née Ashton) (b. 1747; fl. 1824) should be discoverable.