Abberley Hall

The site of the present house was probably inhabited in Celtic and Roman times.   Later, in AD 602, St. Augustine is popularly supposed to have met Welsh and Irish churchmen at Abberley.  The ‘Apostles Oak’ where, this important conference took place stood in the coppice across the road from the present main gates of Abberley Hall.

The Domesday Book mentions Abberley as ‘Edboldega’ or Eadbold’s settlement. William the Conqueror granted the manor to Ralph de Todeni, his standard bearer at the Battle of Hastings. The de Todeni family also held lands in Warwickshire, Norfolk and Hertfordshire, but their main residence was ‘a park on a hill overlooking the parish of Abberley’ i.e. probably within the present School grounds.

The de Todenis held Abberley until about 1300 when it passed through marriage to Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.  The Beauchamp family continued as lords of Abberley for five generations.  During this time, in 1405, Owen Glendower with assistance from 12,000 Frenchmen invaded the area and camped on Woodbury Hill. An opposing English army occupied Abberley Hill, and there was a skirmish on Merritt’s Hill (on which the Clock Tower is now built).  The Welsh then withdrew

The manor of Abberley later passed to the Neville family. During this time, a fortification built on the site rated as one of the seven major castles of Worcestershire

The Nevilles were one of the many great baronial families weakened by the Wars of the Roses (1453-1485). Henry VII, the victor of the Battle of Bosworth and the first of the Tudors seized Abberley as a royal possession.  His son, Henry VIII, granted Abberley to his Groom of the King’s Chamber, Walter Walsh whose family lived at nearby Shelsley.

The Walshes held Abberley for over 175 years, but not without interruption. Queen Elizabeth I took it away to give to a favourite, but after a law suit it was restored to the Walshes.

Joseph Walsh fought on the Royalist side at the Battle of Worcester on September 3rd, 1651 and later suffered imprisonment for his loyalty to the Crown.

In the 18th century, Abberley Manor has some literary connections.  It was visited by the poet Pope, and also by Joseph Addison who often stayed there.  A walk lined with yews behind the present building is still known as ‘Addison’s Walk’.

The manor was next owned by the Bromley family, to whom it came by marriage. On the death of Colonel Henry Bromley in 1836, the property was sold. The total estate had shrunk to 800 acres and the old house was in a very tumble-down condition.

Next year – the date of Queen Victoria’s accession – the property was bought by John Lewis Moilliet of Geneva. He rebuilt the manor (then called Abberley Lodge) in the Italian style but died just as it was being completed. On Christmas Day, 1845, soon after his death, the house was severely damaged by fire. His widow Amelia rebuilt the house and lived there until 1861.

Her son, James Moilliet inherited the house, now called Abberley Hall, and installed much of the surviving ornate furniture, bought from the Paris Exhibition.

In 1867, Joseph Jones of Severn Stoke (Worcs.) bought the estate and built the stable block. His cousin John Joseph Jones, a wealthy man, inherited the property in 1880 and set about massive improvements in the Victorian manner. He laid out rockeries, water gardens and grottoes: he built a model farm and extended the estates. He constructed the Clock Tower on Merritt’s Hill between 1883-4 and added a porch and wing to the Hall.

Abberley continued in the Jones family until 1916. By then, thirty-one people had owned it since the Norman Conquest.