A Brief History of Bourton Manor
In 1874, Lord Wenlock commissioned the renowned architect Richard Norman Shaw to design him a country house, in the romantic old English style, on his Estate here in Bourton at the heart of some of Shropshire’s most beautiful countryside.
There was already a substantial house on the site but given its unique position and fine views overlooking the Estate the decision was made to build the new house around the much earlier, 16th century property.
Bielby Lawley, the 3rd Baron, Lord Wenlock, who inherited the Bourton Estate upon the death of his father, was a prominent public figure. He was an MP for Chester, the Governor of Madras and a friend of Edward VII.
The house was formerly known as Bourton Cottage (until the mid-20th century), a bit of a contradiction given it’s size, but other similar “cottages” were built at this time in the spirit of Victorian romanticism. Lord Wenlock owned estates at Escrick in Yorkshire, which were vast, some 22,000 acres, so a Shropshire “cottage” set in a mere 5,000 acres must have seemed quite cosy and intimate at the time.
At the beginning of the 20th century the estate was sold to a Mr Whitley who was known locally as The Squire. He and his wife Suzanna were popular with their tenants and both played an active part in village life. The Whitley’s employed a large number of staff including a footman, ladies maid, house maids, chauffeur and a cook, not to mention the gardeners, stable lads and estate workers. The entire village relied on the estate for their livelihood.
At that time the village had a working smithy, shop, post office & thriving village school. There were fetes and tea parties on the lawns at the manor and the church played a central part in everyone’s lives. Mr Whitley died in 1940 and with him the end of an era. Mrs Whitley commissioned the clock in the church tower as a memorial to him and it still keeps excellent time today.
The Land Army in Bourton
In 1941 the stables and grooms quarters at Bourton Manor were requisitioned by the government as a Land Army hostel. It was the main hostel in the Much Wenlock area and home to a dozen land army girls and their matron for about eight years. The girls came from as far away as Liverpool and London but they settled down quickly and were welcomed by the villagers. The girls worked hard and several of them married local young men. The photographs were kindly given to us by one of the Land Girls Nellie Evans.
Upon the death of Mrs Whitley, the Bourton Estate was inherited by The Hon. Mrs Betty Field, daughter of Lord Gisborough. She and her husband, Colonel Field, were based in India at the time, but when they returned they were both involved with the Estate and life in the village.
Nowadays, the footmen and ladies maids are long gone but The Manor is still a wonderful family home with a self catering holiday cottage and apartment which both combine interesting historical features with all the conveniences of modern day living.