BLITHFIELD HALL AND ITS ESTATE
Historic Home of the Bagot Family in England for Centuries
 

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Blithfield Hall, its buildings with turrets and battlements, with the main house joined by battlement walls and the turreted gateway is one of the oldest castles in England. At first, it only contained the main castle with a few buildings with the moat surrounding the establishment. Blithfield is situated between the valleys of the two rivers, Blythe and Trent, lying in a hollow, but on high ground. It is not known that it got its name from the Blythe, because the Blithfield family had lived there for centuries before Ralph Bagot married Elizabeth Blithfield in 1360, but probably did get its name from the Blythe River. In 1953 the river was dammed to form a reservoir and now a very attractive lake lies southeast of the house.

Blithfield Hall is within two miles of Abbot's Bromley. Abbot's Bromley is famous partly because the annual Horn Dance performed there, beginning at the church at Abbot's Bromley and continuing for about twenty miles surrounding it. In ancient times, the dancers passed by Bagot's Bromley, about a mile distance from Blithfield and Abbot's Bromley, and stopped there to have lunch with the Bagot family. Bagot's Bromley was apparently a small castle surrounded by a moat and appeared as a fortress. The only way to get to the castle was by a drawbridge, which the family would lower for visitors to arrive. Bagot's Bromley is now only a memory with a stone in Monument Field as a reminder. The dance is now performed on the lawn of Blithfield Hall as it passes by. A picture is shown on Abbot's Bromley.

In its beginning, Blithfield appeared as a fortress with a moat around the complete surroundings. The Elizabethan South Front with its tall chimneys, is said to have been rebuilt by Richard Bagot and until about the eighteenth century, a moat ran directly beneath the windows. A bridge leading to the open courtyard around which the beautiful house was built gave entrance to the front door of the castle, or great gateway, as it was then called. At this time the center of the courtyard with the plants and pots surrounding the lily pond on either side of the buildings introduces a peaceful atmosphere as you enter there. The north side of the courtyard now has a Gothic Cloister, with a Gallery above. The interesting South Front, with its tall chimneys and the Inner Courtyard, appears to be an altogether different place from that of the West Front with its five gables, but reports are that that part of the house has not changed much since 1686.

Decades ago the Great Hall was a beautiful piece of architecture, and it is almost impossible to describe the luxury it displayed. The way it appeared before was the beautiful draped ceiling with the dazzling chandelier hanging in the center of the room and two doors that exited into another part of the Hall. The wall on the right side displayed several Coats of Arms of the family located in a frame with hand carved decorations on top. One showed the Arms of Ralph Bagot and Elizabeth Blithfield, whose marriage in 1360 caused the Bagots at Bagot's Bromley to move to nearby Blithfield. Directly underneath it was the fireplace situated with an arched top. A long table stood in the room with drawings on its top, including Coats of Arms of the family and other figures. In a glass case on the center table was the family tree. Starting in 1067, it covered nearly 900 years; hence the family motto, "Possessing Antiquity." On the wall atop two doors and between them, hang four matching sets of the horns of the Bagot Goat, which ran wild in Bagot's Park for hundreds of years. The floor of the Hall shined as polished bronze, and appeared to be made from oak hardwood.

The Great Hall described above is not the same at the present time. That is, the long table described above has gone to a museum. As stated, it had a glass top and under the glass was a tapestry showing the Bagot family tree. As for the family tree, it probably is still there some place in the Hall, approved by the College of Arms, and recently brought up to date by them. When Caryl died in 1961, the Lordship went to other male relations. Lady Nancy, his widow from Sydney, Australia who survived his Lordship, is the present owner of Blithfield Hall. At that point, of course, Nancy, Lady Bagot was then reduced to plain Nancy Bagot. As everybody knew her as Lady Nancy, she changed her name by deed poll to Nancy, Lady Bagot. Blithfield Hall now belongs to her, not to a Lord's inheritance. At her decease, it will go to another member of her family, but not a Lord.

It appears that the change of the Great Hall was made when the reservoir was created southeast of the house. The Blythe River Reservoir adds picturesque scenery to the estate. When the reservoir dam was opened in 1953, a memorable experience happened there at Blithfield. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, opened the reservoir, and she was entertained to luncheon in the room of the Great Hall. The room was redecorated and rearranged for The Queen Mother's visit. On the wall atop the two doors and between them hang the four matching sets of the Horns of the Bagot Goat as they did before.

The Main, or Great, Staircase, which I understand leads to the Great Hall, dates from the reign of Charles I, the balustrades being carved with Coats of Arms and the posts carved with heraldic animals, along with vases of fruits and flowers. You have to see the Great Staircase to really appreciate the luxury of its design. The wood for the oak staircase and the oak floors throughout the house, along with the paneling was apparently grown on the Blithfield estate.

Another beautiful room in a part of Blithfield Hall is the Dining Room. Its green and gold Elizabethan paneling, grapevine cornice and barrel ceiling, is an eye catcher. It has a very wide fireplace with the mantel, and above it is mounted thirty-six Coats of Arms of the family and of those into which the family married. On each side of the fireplace and Coats of Arms are two sets of bookcases. It has in the center of the room a long table with three tripod like legs and a glass top with candlesticks and dinnerware scattered out on the glass top. The floor shines like crystal, and appears to be made of the same oak material as described in the Great Hall above. The room has arched ceiling with a window on the right side, and on the left and right side of the fireplace between the bookcases are twin doors, which are apparently entrances to two closets.

The Study was added about 1738 when other rooms were built to the North Front. A portrait of Colonel Salesbury hangs on the wall of one side of the room. On the other side over the fireplace is a copy of a portrait of Colonel Richard Bagot, who defended Lichfield Cathedral during the Civil War. The (6th) Baron, Caryl Ernest Bagot, who died in 1961, used the Study for several years. The (6th) Baron was succeeded by Harry Iric Bagot, (7th) Baron, 1893-1961. He was succeeded by Reginald Walter Bagot, (8th) Baron Bagot, 1887-1973. Heneage Charles Bagot, (9th) Baron Bagot, born 1914, succeeded and is the present Baron. Apparently the two Barons, (7th) and (8th), did not live at Blithfield since Lady Bagot, widow of Caryl Ernest, lives there at present and at one time allowed visitors in the Hall. It is not known where the two Barons following Caryl Ernest lived, but the present Baron lives in Wales.

There across from the eighteenth century Orangery is the thirteenth century Blithfield Parish Church of St. Leonard, which apparently replaced an even older building, since a priest mentioned the church in the Domesday Book in 1086. The Orangery faces south. A Coat of Arms of the barons and other Arms are shown on the windows of Blithfield Church. The Chancel of the Church shows the altar underneath an elegant window above. Another scene shows the helmet of John Bagot. In Memorials of the Bagot Family, a book compiled by (2nd) Baron, William Bagot, and printed in 1824 states that this part of Blithfield was built by his father, (1st) Baron, by the Staffordshire architect Samuel Wyatt and under the direction of Athenian Stuart. Apparently the original book presents many watercolor pictures of the house and gardens. The book has been copied and put in a binder, and the copy that these notes were taken from does not include the watercolor pictures, but much history is found in it. History indicates that the Hall originally stood by the Parish Church. A village of Blithfield is said to have existed near the church at one time, but it is said that there is no trace of it remaining today. The Georgian Rectory burned in 1962, but there are hopes that it can be replaced as well.

In 1946, when the (6th) Baron and his wife Nancy came to live in Staffordshire, the house at Blithfield had fallen into ruins, even as it had in Sir John's day six hundred years earlier. There was only a tap for water in the kitchen, far from other parts of the Hall, no bathrooms except hip baths, no electricity or heating, apart from open fires. The roof leaked almost everywhere. The (5th) Baron had sold the house to the South Staffordshire Water Works, who was to make a reservoir in the Park. The (5th) Baron had permission to live at Blithfield for his life, and with the house in the state that it was, in 1945, considered a wise move. After the (5th) Baronís death, the (6th) Baron and Nancy his wife moved into a small hotel at Abbot's Bromley. After seeing the ruins, they decided to buy the house and gardens back. After much negotiation, the house was again in possession of the Bagot family. They then immediately began the enormous task of restoration of the buildings at Blithfield. Fortunately, they received a grant from the Historic Buildings Council for the repair of the roof and cutting out the dry rot. The Main Hall and most of the surrounding buildings have now been restored.

There is a brass plaque dedicated to the memory of the husband of Nancy, which bears his Coat of Arms. It is set into the back of the oak stall he used. An inscription says that Sir Caryl Ernest, 6th Baron Bagot, was born 9th March 1877, the only son of the Reverend Lewis Bagot. He served in the Irish Guards during World War I. He succeeded his cousin in 1946, and with Nancy his wife made Blithfield his home until his death, 5th August 1961, during which time the Hall was brought back to life and beauty. It is apparent that if it had not been for the (6th) Baron, the Hall at Blithfield would, in all probability, have been demolished and much beauty lost. In the latter days of the (5th) Baron's life, he lived in only a few rooms of the whole house consisting of eighty-two rooms. Although we have attempted to describe parts of this outstanding castle, it is impossible to illustrate the beauty of this house.

We have been informed that the owners of The Tower House, another beautiful part of the Blithfield estate, are not the Bagot family who resides at Blithfield Hall at the present time. It appears that parts of the estate have been transformed into flats and sold off separately. The Bagot family, Nancy, Lady Bagot and her daughter Caryl Rosemary, did in fact still reside in the Main Hall in 1979, and according to reliable information we have obtained, Lady Bagot remains there to this day.

The aerial view of the great estate is exceptionally remarkable. The several castle-like houses scattered over a large area are seemingly separate, but in some way, connected with each other. The magnificent buildings appear to be that of a king's palace. The architecture of the buildings is astounding, with each and every building on the estate similar, but actually different in some manner. The Park and estate around the castle is covered with trees, and all of them appear to be oak trees, some in clusters and others some distance from each other. If one were to vacation in the United Kingdom, you should try and get permission to visit Blithfield. It actually appears as something that comes out of a storybook. The estate of Blithfield is located in Staffordshire in England near Rugeley.

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