Thursday 21 March 2013

(17) Acton of Acton Scott

Acton of Acton Scott and
Aldenham coat of arms.
© Jimmy Nicolle. CC licence
Coat of arms granted to Thomas
Stackhouse Acton in 1990.
Courtesy of William Acton
The Acton family were in residence at Acton Scott by 1255.  Richard Acton (d. 1590) replaced the medieval manor house with the present building shortly before he died.  His granddaughter, Frances Acton, married her cousin, Walter Acton of Aldenham Park, uniting the two estates for around a hundred years.  (An account of the Actons of Aldenham will be given in a forthcoming post).  Their son, Sir Edward Acton (d. 1659), was created a baronet in 1644.  With the death of Sir Edward Acton, 3rd bt., in 1716, Aldenham passed with the baronetcy to his elder son, but Acton Scott passed first to his second son, Edward Acton (d. 1747), and then to Edward Acton (1724-75), who was the son of their youngest brother, the Rev. John Acton, vicar of Clun.  Edward’s daughter and heir, Theresa Susannah Acton, wife of John Stackhouse of Pendarves (Cornwall), inherited in 1780, and on her death in 1834 Acton Scott, together with her property at How Caple Court and Sollers Hope (Herefs) passed to their youngest son, Thomas, who assumed the additional surname Acton.  Thomas seems already to have been in occupation at Acton Scott by c.1810-20, when he commissioned a remodelling of the house by Joseph Bromfield.  When he died without issue in 1835 How Caple and Sollers Hope and the Acton Scott estate passed to his brother Edward, but Acton Scott Hall devolved on his widow Frances (d. 1881), and at her death on his great-nephew, Augustus Wood (1842-1918), who again took the additional surname Acton on receiving the inheritance.  He had already inherited the How Caple estate in 1853 and the Acton Scott estate in 1873.  His daughter Joyce (b. 1899) married Richard Charles Fullarton-Smith (d. 1970), who took the surname Acton in 1941.  The estate now belongs to their son, Thomas Stackhouse Acton (b. 1925), who featured prominently, with his son and heir Francis (b. 1967), in the BBC TV series Victorian Farm, broadcast in 2009.  The Home Farm is now operated by Shropshire CC as the Acton Scott Working Farm Museum.

Acton Scott Hall, Shropshire

Acton Scott Hall: north front. © Peter Whatley.  Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

A square gabled house of brick with mullioned and transomed windows, traditionally said to have been built c.1580-90, perhaps by Walter Hancock, for Richard Acton (d. 1590).  The house is an exceptionally early example of a double pile plan, and similar to Whitehall, Shrewsbury (of 1578-82).  In 1672 the house was taxed on ten hearths.
Acton Scott Hall: the south front.

The south front was originally the entrance side, and has a narrower central bay between canted bay windows.  On this side the house is of two storeys plus the gables, but at the back the fall of the land means that there is an extra full storey, so the facade towers to four storeys; the basement level provided service accommodation.  When Thomas Pendarves Stackhouse made the Hall his home in 1807, he found a building that had become dilapidated after many years of occupation by tenants. As his new wife Frances put it in 1812, “The small paned leaded windows with no shutters let in wind and rain so that the candles blew out unless protected by a screen. The drawing room carpet was often soaked with the rain that beat in during the night. In winter the only habitable room was the Smoking Room”. The main entrance was moved to the north front in c.1811, when Joseph Bromfield remodelled the interior and added a large new east wing, containing a new dining room.  The main staircase with turned balusters is mid 18th century, and the Jacobean woodwork, including the arcaded overmantel in the hall was probably imported by Frances Stackhouse Acton in the mid 19th century.  The late 16th century wainscot in the Justice Room, with miniature arcading in the frieze, may be indigenous.  Most of the 19th century additions were demolished in 1961-62.  The Gothick home farm (now the Acton Scott Working Farm Museum) was built in 1768 and is unusually ambitious for its date.  The grounds were laid out between 1807 and 1822 in the gardenesque style, probably largely to the designs of the Stackhouse Actons themselves, and apparently replaced an open parkland setting.

Previous owners: Richard Acton (d. 1590); to Edward Acton; to daughter Frances Acton, wife of Walter Acton of Aldenham (d. 1641); to son, Sir Edward Acton of Aldenham, 1st bt. (1600-59); to son, Sir Walter Acton of Aldenham, 2nd bt. (d. 1665); to son, Sir Edward Acton of Aldenham, 3rd bt. (d. 1716); to second son,  Edward Acton (d. 1747); to son, Edward Acton (1724-75); to widow, Anne Acton (d. 1780);  to daughter Theresa Susannah Acton (1754-1834), wife of John Stackhouse of Pendarves (Cornwall) (1741-1819); to son Thomas Pendarves Stackhouse (Stackhouse Acton after 1834) (1778-1835); the Hall then passed to his widow, Frances Stackhouse Acton (d. 1881) and the estate to his elder brother Edward William Wynne-Pendarves (d. 1853); and then to the latter's sister, Catherine Holt (1790-1873) before passing to her great-nephew, Augustus Wood (Wood-Acton or Stackhouse Acton after 1881) (1842-1918), who also inherited the Hall; to daughter, Joyce Stackhouse Acton (b. 1899), wife of Richard Charles Fullerton-Smith (later Acton) (1882-1970); given 1966 to son, Thomas Stackhouse Acton (b. 1925).

How Caple Court, Herefordshire

How Caple Court: the late 17th century facade overlooking the gardens.

The house is basically the three bay two and a half storey house built in the late 17th century for Sir William Gregory, with continuous string courses, moulded cornice and tiled hipped roof.  The mullioned and transomed windows and canted bays are of c.1885, when Nicholson & Son enlarged the house.  Further large extensions were carried out from 1902 for Lennox B. Lee in a vernacular Arts & Crafts spirit, at least in part to his own designs.  

How Caple Court: the gatehouse of 1923. © Trevor Rickard.  Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

The attractive NW gatehouse of 1923, probably by Bettington & Son, has a decorative half-timbered upper floor, and provided access to a new entrance on the north side of the house.  The outbuildings further north incorporate the 17th century stables and 17th-18th century barns.  The house is now noted chiefly for its gardens.  The formal terraced gardens south of the house which may be 17th century in origin but which in their present form were created by Lee; they sit on four levels linked by flights of steps and overlooked by an attractive gazebo in the NW corner.  The main early 20th century gardens lie in a narrow valley to the west, and form a sequence from the north to the south, following the fall of the ground.  Above, on the rising ground up to the house is an impressively craggy rock garden, laid out c.1885 to designs by F.W. Meyer, executed by Veitch & Sons of Exeter.

Previous owners: Sir William Gregory MP (1624-96); to grandson, William Gregory (1676-1702); to son, William Gregory (1700-65); to daughter Anne Gregory (d. 1780), wife of Edward Scott of Acton Scott (Salop) (d. 1775); to daughter Susannah Acton (d. 1834), wife of John Stackhouse of Pendarves (Cornwall) (1741-1819); to son, Thomas Pendarves Stackhouse (Stackhouse Acton after 1834) (1778-1835); to brother, Edward William Wynne-Pendarves (né Stackhouse) (1775-1853); to great-nephew, Augustus Wood (1842-1918), who sold before 1885 to Rev. Thomas Bevill Paynter of Wadham College, Oxford; sold 1900 to Lennox Bertram Lee (1864-1949); to son, Roger Malcolm Lee (b. 1902); to son, Peter Lennox Lee (1936-c.1996); to son, Roger Lennox Auesperg Lee (fl. 2012)

The Actons of Acton Scott

Acton, Richard (1536-90).  Son of Thomas Acton (b. c.1510) and his wife Mary, daughter of Peter Newton.  He married Cecily (b. 1536), dau of Richard Mitton (1502-91) of Shrewsbury and had (possibly with other issue):
(1) Edward Acton (b. c.1560) (q.v.).
He inherited Acton Scott from his father in the mid 16th century and rebuilt the house c.1580-90.
He died in 1590.

Acton, Edward (b. c.1560, fl. 1621).  Son of Richard Acton (1536-90) and his wife Cecily, daughter of Richard Mitton.  He married Katharina, dau of Thomas Powell, and had issue:
(1) Frances Acton (c.1580-1632), m. her cousin, Walter Acton (c.1575-1641) (q.v.).
He inherited Acton Scott from his father in 1590.
His date of death is unknown.

Acton, Walter (1572-1641) of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park.  Eldest son of Robert Acton (1534-97) of Aldenham Park (Shropshire) and his wife Brigitt, daughter of Robert Doddington alias Detton; baptised 24 April 1572.  JP for Shropshire; Escheator for Shropshire, 1610-11; High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1630.  He married c.1598 his cousin, Frances Acton (c.1580-1632) and had issue:
(1) Sir Edward Acton (1600-59), 1st bt. (q.v.).
He inherited Aldenham Park from his father and Acton Scott Hall in right of his wife. He is thought to have made major alterations to Aldenham Park in the 1620s.
He died in 1641; buried 29 April 1641.  His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1 June 1641.

Acton, Sir Edward (1600-59), 1st baronet, of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park.  Son of Walter Acton (c.1575-1641) and his wife Frances, daughter of Edward Acton of Acton Scott; baptised at Morville, 20 July 1600.  MP for Bridgnorth, 1640-44; deprived of his seat as a Royalist.  Created a baronet, 17 January 1643/44.  In the Civil War he was a Colonel in the Royalist Dragoons and saw action at the Battle of Edgehill and the siege of Bridgnorth Castle (which he surrendered in 1646); compounded for his estates in 1646 for £5,242, later reduced to £2,000.  He married c.1620 Sarah (1598-1679), daughter of Richard Mytton of Halston (Shropshire) and had, with an unnamed daughter who died in infancy:
(1) Sir Walter Acton (1621-65), 2nd bt. (q.v.); 
(2) Edward Acton (b. 1621/22), baptised 2 January 1622; died young; 
(3) Thomas Acton (1623-77), from whom descend the Actons of Gatacre Park
(4) Frances Acton (1625-26), baptised 13 November 1625; buried 25 May 1626;
(5) Robert Acton (1628-54), baptised 2 November 1628; died without issue and was buried 29 March 1654;
(6) William Acton (1629-59) of Buildwas (Shropshire), draper; baptised 2 March 1629; m. 29 December 1653, Mary (d. 1715), daughter of Arthur Weaver and had issue, one son and one daughter; 
(7) Capt. Richard Acton RN (1633-74), baptised 21 April 1633; fought in First and Second Dutch wars; m. Lydia Pearson of London and had issue a daughter; buried 25 April 1674.
He inherited Aldenham Park and Acton Scott Hall from his father in 1641.  He also bought Gatacre Park after 1655.
He died in 1659 and was buried 29 June 1659.  His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 20 December 1659.

Acton, Sir Walter (1621-65), 2nd baronet, of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park. Eldest son of Sir Edward Acton (1600-59) and his wife Sarah, daughter of Richard Mytton of Halston (Shropshire), baptised 2 September 1621.  JP for Shropshire, 1660-65; MP for Bridgnorth, 1660-61.  He married, before 1648, Catherine, daughter of Richard Cressett of Cound (Shropshire) and had issue:
(1) Sarah Acton (1648-1702), m. Thomas Gatacre and had issue; buried at Claverley 26 February 1702;
(2) Sir Edward Acton, 3rd bt. (1649-1716) (q.v.); 
(3) Capt. Walter Acton (1651-1718), m. 1678 Catherine, daughter of Oliver Pocklington MD and had issue ten sons and six daughters, from whom descended the 6th and subsequent baronets - see below;
(4) Richard Acton (1653-1703), vintner and linen draper in London; member of the Royal African Company; m.1, c.1652, Anne Llewellyn of Bristol and and had issue six sons and two daughters; m.2, 1698, Hester, daughter of Thomas Abrahall of Barking; died 14 March 1703; buried at Acton Round, where is commemorated by a monument erected in 1713 by his widow to the design of Edward Stanton;
(5) William Acton (1654-89), probably author of A new journey of Italy, containing what is most remarkable...; died without issue;
(6) Thomas Acton (1654-85), haberdasher in London; m. 1678 Anne, daughter of Michael Widdrington of Morpeth (Northumberland) and had issue one son;
(7) Robert Acton (1655-c.1694) of Stepney, mercer; nonconformist; m. Hester Coleman (1656-1722) and had issue four sons and one daughter; died before 1695;
(8) Francis Acton (1657-1733), banker of London; director of the South Sea Company, 1712-15; Deputy Governor of Royal African Company, 1721; a strong Tory and possibly banker to Jonathan Swift; died at Putney, 24 August 1733;
(9) Elizabeth Acton, m.1 John Betkin (d. by 1686) and m.2, 1686, Peter Crouch, apothecary and had issue; died after 1695;
(10) Catherine Acton (b. 1664), m.1 Capt. Robert Thomas (1654-91), second son of Sir Robert Thomas, 2nd bt. and m.2, Thomas Evans of London, draper.
He inherited Aldenham Park and Acton Scott Hall from his father in 1659.
He died in 1665 and was buried at Morville, 3 September 1665.

Acton, Sir Edward (1649-1716), 3rd baronet, of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park.  Elder son of Sir Walter Acton (1621-65), 2nd bt., and his wife Catherine, daughter of Richard Cressett of Cound (Shropshire), baptised 6 February 1649.  Educated at Queens College, Oxford (matriculated 1666; BA 1667) and Inner Temple (admitted 1670); a freeman of Bridgnorth from 1673 and of Ludlow from 1697; JP for Shropshire, 1678-88; High Sheriff of Shropshire 1684-85; MP for Bridgnorth 1689-1705; Recorder of Bridgnorth 1686-1716.  He married 8 December 1674, Mary (1650-1713), daughter and heiress of John Walter of Elberton (Glos) and had issue: 
(1) Sarah Acton (b. 1675), m.1 Thomas Child of Kinlet and had issue; m.2 Rev Robert Philips DD and had further issue; 
(2) Sir Whitmore Acton (1678-1732), 4th bt. (q.v.); 
(3) Mary Acton (1678-1748), twin to Sir Whitmore Acton;
(4) Frances Acton (1679-1718), m. Rev. Timothy Collins MA; died in childbirth;
(5) Edward Acton (1680-1747) (q.v.); 
(6) Elizabeth Acton (1683-1738), baptised at Morville, 16 May 1683; married, 12 June 1708 at Morville, Richard Fleming (1680-1748) of Shadwell and Sibdon Carwood, and had issue three sons and two daughters; buried at Morville, 6 February 1738;
(7) Catherine Acton (1684-1743), m. Robert Philips of Meole (Salop) and had issue;
(8) Rev. John Acton LLD (1687-1746), vicar of Clun; m. Beatrix, sister of Richard Fleming of Sibden and Shadwell (Shropshire) and had issue a son, Edward Acton (q.v.).
He inherited Aldenham Park and Acton Scott Hall from his father in 1665, and rebuilt Aldenham Park. In 1710 he settled Aldenham on his heir and Acton Scott on his second son, Edward.
He died 28 September 1716; buried at Morville, 4 October 1716 where he is commemorated by a monument.  His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 31 October 1716.

Acton, Edward (1680-1747).  Second son of Sir Edward Acton, 3rd bt. (d. 1716) and his wife Mary, daughter and heiress of Mr Walter; born 2 February 1680.  Married Mary Gibson, but died without issue.
He acquired the Acton Scott estate from his father under a settlement of 1710.  At his death the property passed to his nephew, Edward Scott (1724-75).
He died 29 November 1747; buried at Acton Scott where he is commemorated by a standing wall monument designed by William Baker and executed by William Hiorne. 

Acton, Edward (1724-75).  Only son of Rev. John Acton (1687-1746), vicar of Clun, and his wife Beatrix, sister of Richard Fleming of Sibden and Shadwell (Shropshire); baptised 24 May 1724.  He married Anne (1729-80), daughter and heiress of William Gregory of Woolhope (Herefs) and had issue:
(1) Anne Acton (b. and d. 1751);
(2) Theresa Susannah Acton (1754-1834), m. John Stackhouse (1741-1819) (q.v.), second son of Rev William Stackhouse DD, rector of St Erme (Cornwall), and had issue.
He inherited Acton Scott Hall from his uncle in 1747 and the How Caple Court and Sollers Hope estates in right of his wife.  At his death his wife had a life interest in his estates.
He died on 23 July 1775, aged 51, and is commemorated by a monument in Acton Scott church.

Stackhouse, John (1741-1819). Second son of Rev William Stackhouse DD (1720-71), rector of St Erme (Cornwall).  Educated at Exeter College, Oxford (matriculated 1758) and  travelled around the Mediterranean studying marine biology; Fellow of Exeter College, 1761-64; Fellow of the Linnean Society.  He married 20 April 1773 Theresa Susannah Acton (1754-1834), only child of Edward Acton (1724-75) and his wife Anne, daughter of William Gregory of Woolhope (Herefs), and had issue:
(1) John Stackhouse (1775-81), dsp;
(2) Edward William Stackhouse (from 1814 Wynne-Pendarves) MA, MP (1775-1853); MP for Cornwall 1826-32, West Cornwall 1832-53; m. 1804, Tryphena, daughter of Rev. Browse Twist of Bowden, Devon but died without issue;
(3) Thomas Pendarves Stackhouse (later Acton) (1778-1835) (q.v.);
(4) Anne Gregory Stackhouse (1785-1862), m. Rev. Thomas Bernard Coleman, rector of Church Stretton (Salop) and had issue one son and four daughters;
(5) Catherine Stackhouse (1790-1873), m. 1831 Rev. William Fowler Holt (1797-1853), but died without issue.
He inherited the Pendarves estate in Cornwall in 1763; the Acton Scott (Shropshire) and How Caple Court (Herefordshire) estates and the manor of Icomb (Gloucestershire) in right of his wife in 1780, and built Acton Castle (Cornwall) in 1773, which he used as a home and as a laboratory for the study of seaweeds.  In the early 19th century he and his wife settled at Acton Scott, remodelled the house and laid out the grounds. He gave Pendarves to his elder son in 1804 and sold the manor of Icomb in 1807, and at his death the remainder of his property passed to his widow.
He died at Bath, 22 November 1819.

Acton (né Stackhouse), Thomas Pendarves (1778-1835).  Born 9 August 1778, third son of John Stackhouse (1741-1819) and his wife Theresa Susannah, daughter of Edward Acton of Acton Scott.  Educated at Rugby and Harrow Schools and Jesus College, Cambridge (admitted 1798; BA 1804; MA 1807).  JP and DL for Shropshire.  He changed his name to Acton on inheriting the Acton Scott estate in 1834.  He married 28 January 1812 Frances (d. 1881), dau of Thomas Andrew Knight of Downton Castle (Herefs), but died without issue.
He lived at Acton Scott (Shropshire) from 1807, but did not inherit it from his mother until 1834; at his death in 1835 the Hall passed to his widow (d. 1881) and then to his great-nephew, Augustus Wood (q.v.)., but the estate passed to his elder brother, Edward William Wynne-Pendarves (d. 1853), then to his sister, Catherine Holt (1790-1873) and then to Augustus Wood.
He died 11 February 1835 at Acton Scott.

Wood-Acton (né Wood), Augustus (1842-1918). Second son of John Wood (d. 1872) of Ashfield, Martock (Somerset) and his wife Mary Anne, daughter of Rev. Thomas Bernard Coleman and his wife Anne Gregory Stackhouse.  He added Acton to his surname in 1874 after inheriting the Acton Scott estate.  He served as Honorary Chief Constable of Shropshire during First World War.  He married 1880 Laura Charlotte, daughter of Rev. Richard Surtees, rector of Holtby (Yorks) and had issue:
(1) Joyce Stackhouse Acton (1899-1992) (q.v.).
He inherited the How Caple Court estate from his great-uncle in 1853, the Acton Scott estate from his great-aunt in 1873, and Acton Scott Hall in 1881.  He then sold the How Caple estate to Rev. T.B. Paynter.
He died 24 March 1918; will proved in London, 14 September 1918; estate valued at £19,593.

Acton (née Wood-Acton, then Fullerton-Smith), Joyce (1899-1992).  Only child of Augustus Wood Stackhouse Acton (1842-1918) and his wife Laura Charlotte, daughter of Rev. Richard Surtees; born December 1899.  She married 1923 Richard Fullarton-Smith (1882-1970), son of Arthur Weston Fullarton-Smith of Thrybergh, Marton (New Zealand), who took the name Acton in lieu of Fullarton-Smith in 1941, and had issue:
(1) Lt-Cdr. Thomas Stackhouse Acton RN (né Fullerton-Smith) (1925-2020) (q.v.);
(2) Richard Gregory Acton (b. 1926), m. 1954 Daphne Mary, dau of Thomas Nuttall Halstead of Altrincham (Cheshire) and had issue.
She inherited the Acton Scott estate on the death of her father in 1918, and gave it to her elder son in 1966.
She died in July 1992, aged 92.

Fullerton-Smith (later Acton), Lt-Cdr. Thomas Stackhouse (1925-2020). Elder son of Richard Fullarton-Smith (later Acton) (1882-1970) and his wife Joyce, only child of Augustus Wood Stackhouse-Acton, born 1925. An officer in the Royal Navy (Lt-Cdr.). He married, 
1966, Ella Lucy (d. 2019), adopted daughter of Miss I. S. Stavely, of Trevor House, Church Stretton (Salop) and Nottingham, and had issue:
(1) Capt. Francis Stackhouse Acton (b. 1967) (q.v.);
(2) Rupert Staveley Acton (b. 1969), married 1st, Jul-Sept. 2001 (div. 2010), Louise Adele Cumber (b. 1972), and has issue one daughter; married 2nd, 13 September 2014, Hortense Marandet.
He was given Acton Scott Hall by his mother in 1966. 
He died aged 95 on 27 May 2020; his wife died 2 March 2019.

Acton, Col. Francis Stackhouse (b. 1967). Elder son of Lt-Cdr. Thomas Stackhouse Fullerton-Smith (later Acton) (1925-2020), and his wife Ella Lucy, adopted daughter of Miss I.S. Stavely of Trevor House, Church Stretton (Salop) and Nottingham, born 1967. An officer in the Grenadier Guards (Lt., 1988; Capt., 1992; retired 1994) and later in the Territorial Army (Capt., 1999; Maj., 2002; Lt-Col., 2008). He married, Jul-Sept. 1997, Alison Ruth (b. 1967), daughter of Rev. George Samuel Beck of Coniston (Cumbld.), and had issue:
(1) Edward George Stackhouse Acton (b. 1999), born Oct-Dec 1999;
(2) Sophie Grace Acton (b. 2002), born Apr-Jun 2002.
He inherited  Acton Scott Hall from his father in 2020.
Now living.


Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 1970; P. Reid, Burke’s & Savill’s Guide to Country Houses: vol. 2, West Midlands, 1980, pp. 40, 73;  D. Wheeler, ‘Rise up among the roses’, Country Life, 17 July 1997, pp. 66-69; VCH Shropshire, vol. 10, 1998, pp. 9-22; J. Newman & N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Shropshire, 2006, p. 96; Sir H.M. Colvin, Biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 4th edn., 2008, p. 164; A. Brooks & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Herefordshire, 2nd edn., 2012, pp. 374-75.

Location of archives

Acton family of Acton Scott: deeds, family and estate papers relating to Shropshire (Acton Scott etc.), 18th-20th cents. [Shropshire Archives, D3651/B/145]

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published on 21 March 2013 and was updated 3 June 2015, 9 July and 23 August 2020, 30 July 2021 and 10 January 2022. I am grateful to William Acton and Rupert Staveley Acton for additional information and corrections.


  1. The Actons of Acton Scott did not have the same arms as the Actons of Aldenham. As per the Visitation of Shropshire, their arms were: "Quarterly, per fess indented argent and gules, in the first quarter a martlet sable."

    1. I was following Burke's General Armory,, which gives the arms I have shown for the Actons of Aldenham and says that those for Acton of Acton Scott are the same. The arms you quote are recorded for a Shropshire Acton family, but not specifically for this family. I will see if I can find archival or monumental evidence for which arms the family actually used.


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.