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A CHESHIRE TALE OF FAMILY AND FORTUNE AT ARLEY HALL

Bill Howell and his two sisters.

Photographs and memories of a family who have helped shape Cheshire for more than 800 years have gone on display at a country home near Northwich. Among the fascinating characters who emerge in Arley Hall’s exhibition are a contributor to the Armada Fund and a man who was sheriff under Oliver Cromwell.

Jane Foster, who curated the permanent exhibition with help from three talented volunteers, said: “What we’ve tried to create is an insight into the lives of the family as well as of a traditional way of life that is now almost forgotten in Cheshire.” A distant ancestor of Jane, and her brother the current Lord Ashbrook, first acquired the land at Arley in 1170. The family have lived on the estate for more than five centuries.

It was their archives that Jane, Ruth Brown and Vivien Hainsworth trawled to collate the exhibition. They also based their work on original research produced by Jane’s husband Charles, which appeared in a previous display. Photographer Paul Atkins helped them reproduce the images that brought to life many of the names and events of the past.

The team met once a week for 18 months to handpick the best stories to share with the public, like that of Peter Warburton who was a contributor to the Armada Fund for fighting the Spanish. He later declined to donate money to the Crown in order to obtain a knighthood. After his death in 1626 silver and gold coins worth £8,356 – the equivalent of £1.2 million today – were found in his bedroom.

Paul Atkins, Ruth Brown, Vivien Hainsworth and Jane Foster who worked together on the exhibition.

In 1654 Peter’s heir, George, became Sheriff of Cheshire under Oliver Cromwell. On the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 he made a gift of £1,084 to the Exchequer and was rewarded with a baronetcy. “Peter and George are two of the great characters from Cheshire’s past,” said Jane. “People will enjoy learning more about them and the part they played in what is a very local history.”

The exhibition also focusses on Arley’s historic buildings as well as traditions that have long since disappeared from the estate including a May Day celebration. In fact, there were so many gems in the records that one of the difficulties for the volunteers was deciding what to leave in and what to take out.

“We had some healthy discussions at times,” said Jane. “Everyone at Arley is tremendously grateful to Ruth, Vivien and Paul for all their hard work in putting together an exhibition which we hope will be of great interest to all our visitors.”

The exhibition is in Arley Hall, which is open on Tuesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from noon until 5pm. Arley’s gardens, Grove and Woodland Walk are open all year.

A classroom scene from the Arley School, which was built in the 1850s.

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