03 September 2022
Whittington Old Hall and
its links with the Babington
clerical family in Lichfield
When I was back in Saint Chad’s Church in Lichfield last week, I paid particular attention to the monument to Catherine Allden (1615-1695) and her husband Zachary Babington (1611-1685) of Whittington and Curborough.
The couple were married in Saint Chad’s Church when she was 20 in 1636, and I was interested in the monument because of the intricate links between the Babington and Comberford families in the 16th and 17th centuries through intermarriage with the Fitzherbert and Beaumont families. But I was also interested to hear this week that part of Whittington Old Hall is still on the market – with an asking price of over £1 million.
Whittington Old Hall is on the edge of the pretty Staffordshire village of Whittington, close to Lichfield. It is a Grade II* listed property steeped in rich history and dating back to the 16th century.
The house is believed to have been built in the Tudor period, and the present owners believe the original timber-frame building would have been clad in handsome brickwork towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth I.
The Revd Stebbing Shaw (1762-1802), in The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire (1798), records that the Everard family owned a house and estate in Whittington during the reign of Henry VIII. They may have been descended from Ralph Everard (1499-1546), who married Maud (Matilda) Comberford (1503-1588), daughter of Thomas Comberford of Comberford Hall. Maud was a sister of Henry Comberford, Precentor of Lichfield, and Richard Comberford, a Lichfield lawyer once claimed as the ancestor of the Comerford family in Ireland.
Whittington Hall was probably built or rebuilt in the Elizabethan age, with the early Tudor builders retaining possibly the foundations of an earlier house, but remodelling the south or garden front and a portion of the entrance front in the reign Edward VI and the early years of the reign of Elizabeth I. They left the old half-timber work and re-cased the exterior with brick and stone-work, and with striking bays and mullioned windows.
The Babington family of Whittington Hall was descended from Canon Zachary Babington (1549-1613), Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield. One genealogical site suggests he came originally from Comberford, although he was the son of Thomas Babington (d. 1567) of Rothley Temple and Cossington, Derbyshire, and his wife Eleanor, daughter and co-heir of John Beaumont.
He was a cousin of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall and the Moat House, Tamworth, and of Anthony Babington, who was hung, drawn and quartered on Tower Hill in 1586 for his role in the Babington Plot to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.
Canon Zachary Babington was Prebendary of Curborough (1584), Master of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (1587), and Precentor of Lichfield and Prebendary of Bishop’s Itchington (1589-1608), two positions held earlier (1555-1559), by his aunt’s brother-in-law, Canon Henry Comberford (1499-1586). He was also Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield (1581-1613).
He created an estate centred on Curborough Hall Farm, and was living there when he died in 1613. His son, Canon William Babington (1582-1625), was also Precentor of Lichfield.
Canon William Babington was the father of both Canon Matthew Babington, a chaplain to Charles I, and Zachary Babington (1611-1685) of Whittington and Curborough, who is remembered with his wife Catherine Allden (1615-1695) in that monument in Saint Chad’s Church.
This Canon William Babington was also the father of Margaret Babington, who married John Birch, one of the trustees of the Comberford estates in the 1650s and 1660s, and Mary Babington who married Matthew Dyott of Stychbrook and Lichfield.
Zachary Babingnton died in 1685 and was buried at Saint Giles Church, Whittington. Zachary’s son, John Babington, was living at Curborough in 1684 and was High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1702. John Babington died in 1706.
John Babington was the father of Zachary Babington (1690-1745) of Curborough Hall and Whittington Old Hall, a barrister and High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1713 and 1724. Zachary Babington’s daughter Mary married Theophilus Levett (1693-1746), steward or town clerk of Lichfield (1721-1746) and a friend of Samuel Johnson’s family as well as part of the intellectual circle in Lichfield that included Erasmus Darwin, Anna Seward, David Garrick and Matthew Boulton.
The Babington estates were divided in 1780 and Curborough Hall went to John Levett, the son of Mary and Theophilus. John died in 1799, and Curborough Hall descended in his family.
Meanwhile, Whittington Hall was bought by Christopher Astley of Tamhorn. Mary Astley, the heiress of the Astley family, inherited Whittington Hall and married her cousin, Richard Dyott of Freeford, in 1783.
The Dyott family appears to have sold the house after Mary Dyott died in 1836. By 1840, the house belonged to John Baggaley of Fradley, but was occupied by Daniel Riley as a tenant until about 1850, when the Baggaley family moved in themselves.
John Baggaley was still living at the Hall in 1861 and 1870, but Lord Berkeley Charles Sydney Paget (1844-1913) was his tenant there in 1880. He was a younger son of Henry Paget (1797-1869), 2nd Marquess of Anglesey, and was related to the Paget family of Elford Hall. The ‘gentleman jockey’ George Alexander Baird also rented the house for a while.
Charles Edward Baggaley sold Whittington Old Hall in 1889 to Samuel Lipscomb Seckham (1827-1901), an architect and brewer. He was the original architect employed by Saint John’s College, Oxford, to develop parts of North Oxford, including Park Town, an early and prominent estate in North Oxford.
Such was the success of Park Town, Seckham also worked on plans for Walton Manor and Norham Manor. He developed Bletchley Park, which he bought in 1877 and sold in 1883 to Sir Herbert Samuel Leon (1850-1926). Bletchley Park later became known for the World War II codebreaking effort there.
Seckham was the High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1890. He spent a small fortune renovating and enlarging Whittington Old Hall but did not live there for many years, continuing to live at Beacon Place in Lichfield. The architect was Matthew Henry Holding of Northampton.
Seckham died on 4 February 1901. His eldest son, Bassett Thorne Seckham, inherited the house and lived there with his wife Alice Dorothy Seckham (nee Moore) until his death in 1925.
Whittington Old Hall Estate was offered for sale at auction in 1926. It was a substantial property totalling 543 acres. But the main house with its 10-acre garden did not reach the reserve price and was withdrawn. It was then let to successive tenants, including Harold de Vahl Rubin and Captain Thomas Lawley.
The house and garden were sold in 1933 to Edmund Richard Corn, a wealthy manufacturer of sanitary earthenware and tiles from the Potteries. There was a large garden party at the Old Hall in July 1937 for 1,500 of Corn’s employees to celebrate the centenary of Richards Tiles Ltd, the Corn family firm.
Corn lived at Whittington Old Hall with his wife Susan Annie (nee Hammersley) until he died in 1945. After Mrs Corn died in 1959, the gardens were sold for housing development (Cloister Walk and Babington Close), the lodges and coach houses were sold as separate homes and the main house was divided into two substantial houses with separate entrances.
No 2 Whittington Hall is a six-bedroom property that combines period features with modern family living, and the accommodation is over three floors.
The features include is a Jacobean-style fireplace with heavily carved timber surround. The library has bookcases and a decorative corner fireplace. There is grand staircase and a second charming small staircase within the tower. The property also has a cellar.
The landscaped gardens are to the south of the house and include a central water feature and a sheltered, stone flagged area. The roof terrace has views of the village.
• No 2 Whittington Old Hall is on sale through Fine & Country Sutton Coldfield, at 322 Lichfield Road, Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield, who are inviting offers of over £1 million.