Upton Cressett Hall
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Superb 16th-century gatehouse
A beautifully restored Tudor manor built around an earlier 14th-century hall and fronted by a superb 16th-century gatehouse. Upton Cressett is set in glorious seclusion in the quiet Shropshire countryside, beside a picturesque Norman church.
A sense of the past is never far from the surface at Upton Cressett. The manor was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, and remnants of a far earlier Roman settlement ca be discerned in a nearby farm field. Also nearby are earthworks which define the outlines of a deserted medieval village. The beautiful little Norman church of St Michael is all that remains of that settlement.
The de Upton family-owned Upton Cressett from the time of the Norman Conquest to the 14th century, when it passed by marriage to the Cressett family, who held the manor for almost another 600 years, into the 20th century. So you could say that the same family held the manor for an astonishing span of over 750 years. The de Uptons were Verderers of the Royal Forest of Morfe, holding the forest for the crown.
The Cressetts were heavily involved in the Wars of the Roses, with Hugh Cressett supporting the Lancastrian cause, while his son Robert was a Yorkist. Robert Cressett, a lawyer by trade, played a leading role in the conflict, and had to be pardoned in the so-called 'Devil's Parliament' of 1459 after the Yorkist defeat at the Battle of Ludlow.
The Princes in the Tower
In 1483 the young Edward V, Prince of Wales and heir to Edward IV, was anointed king at Ludlow following his father's death. The young king's entourage then made a desperate attempt to reach London and have Edward officially crowned at Westminster Abbey.
Tradition says that the royal party stayed overnight at Upton Cressett Hall before crossing the River Severn at Bridgnorth. Unfortunately for the young king's cause, he and his entourage were intercepted by his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Edward and his younger brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London, where the two 'Princes in the Tower disappeared and were presumed murdered, while Richard had himself crowned king.
Robert Cressett's son, Thomas, had a stormy relationship with Henry VII; he rebelled against the crown, was imprisoned, but later released and pardoned, and gave soldiers for the king's French wars.
His descendent, Richard Cressett, had the imposing gatehouse built around 1580, and extended the medieval hall by the simple expedient of encasing the timber-framed building in an outer shell of fashionable brick. Richard could afford to build in style; he was one of the wealthiest men in Shropshire and gave the second largest contribution in the county to the Armada Fund in 1588.
Edward Cressett fought for King Charles in the Civil War and was killed at the Battle of Bridgnorth in 1645. His son Sir Francis served as Royal Treasurer and Steward, and was one of those who tried unsuccessfully to rescue Charles from imprisonment at Carisbrooke Castle in 1648.
The king's cousin, Prince Rupert, reportedly hid at Upton Cressett to escape capture by Parliamentary soldiers. Later Cressetts moved the family seat to Cound Hall, near Shrewsbury and Upton Cressett was left to decay.
It was not until the Cash family purchased the near-derelict Hall in the 1950s that the process of restoration began. It is fascinating to hear the current owner, William Cash, talk about the state of the Hall when he was a child, and then look around at the transformation wrought by four decades of painstaking restoration.
Part of the restoration was to restore the Jacobean panelling, which had been stolen when the house was derelict. The parlour now has modern panelling, but the walls are hung with paintings of prominent Royalists in recognition of the history of the house and its owners.
All that restoration effort has been noticed; in 2011, following 2 years of restoration, Upton Cressett received the 'Hidden Gem' Award from Hudson’s Heritage Group, beating off competition from historic houses around Britain. I'd have to agree; the Hall is one of the most enjoyable and least known Tudor houses I've ever have the pleasure of visiting.
After all, how many times do you get to have tea and cakes in a medieval pavilion on the lawn of a Tudor house, with a medieval church as a backdrop?
The Hall has fairly limited open days, currently a few days a week during the summer months, but it is well worth the effort to make time for a visit. We came on a sunny afternoon in late August and enjoyed an entertaining and very friendly tour led by Mr Cash, who took us through the Elizabethan gatehouse, and into the old medieval hall on the ground floor of the hall, then upstairs to see how the house had been enlarged in the 16th century.
Our guide told us about the legend that there is a secret underground passage between the parlour and the nearby church. Apparently this is more than just a romantic story; the end of the passage has been discovered, and the family plan to restore it so that visitors can experience it for themselves.
After the tour, which lasted about 45 minutes, we had a lovely tea with cakes on the lawn, protected from a sudden shower by a medieval-style canvas pavilion. After the tea, we had the opportunity to tour the workshop studio run by Lady Laura Cathcart, Mr Cash's wife. This was an unexpected pleasure, and had the surprising side-benefit of inspiring our teenage daughter to pursue a career as a milliner!
I highly recommend a visit to Upton Cressett; the house is a wonderful mix of medieval and Tudor, the gatehouse is simply stunning, and you can easily wander down from the house to the lovely Norman church of St Michaels.
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About Upton Cressett Hall
Address: Upton Cressett, Shropshire, England, WV16 6UH
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: In Upton Cressett hamlet, beside the church.
Website: Upton Cressett Hall
Historic Houses Association
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Upton Cressett, St Michael's Church - 0 miles (Historic Church)
Morville Hall - 1.2 miles (Historic Building)
Bridgnorth, St Leonard's Church - 3.7 miles (Historic Church)
Much Wenlock, Holy Trinity Church - 5.1 miles (Historic Church)
Much Wenlock Guildhall - 5.1 miles (Historic Building)
Wenlock Priory - 5.1 miles (Abbey)
Shipton Hall - 5.9 miles (Historic House)
Benthall Hall - 6.3 miles (Historic House)
Nearest Accommodation to Upton Cressett Hall: