Sheen is a small village in Staffordshire. How can a farm dwelling known as ‘High Sheen’ be connected to the downfall of the mighty and wealthy Morts of Astley, Damm House, Peel Hall, Wharton Hall, Smithills and many other grand acquisitions? How does this building have a Royal link?
So far we have found a collection of Mort families living in Lancashire as far back as 600 years ago. Adding to this picture is also a fair gathering of Welsh Morts down in the Valleys - but where else did the Mort’s live long long ago?
Try Staffordshire and in particular the village of Sheen, a small village part way between Stoke on Trent and Chesterfield.
In the midst of the Stafforshire planes, this small farming community is hardly the hive of industry. However, Staffordshire was and remains to be well known for its potteries. An abundance of coal and clay was the main reason for the Pottery Industry becoming established in North Staffordshire. Starting as a small community of 'farmer-potters' in the mid-seventeenth century, the trade of making butterpots for the easier marketing of butter developed in the town of Burslem. Thus Burslem earned the position of mother town of the Potteries. We know that some of the Mort line did become established in the Pottery industry and may have moved South in search of new careers and prospects.
The present village of Sheen, which lies along the road running north-south through the parish, probably existed by 1175 when there was mention of a chapel at Sheen, presumably on the site of the present church. So Sheen as a dwelling place, has been in existance for many centuries.
The following passage has been taken from :- 'Sheen', A History of the County of Staffordshire: Volume 7: Leek and the Moorlands.
"The farms in the village, though rebuilt entirely or in part in the 19th century, are on the sites of earlier buildings. Lower House has an outbuilding with a doorhead inscribed TW 1621. The Palace has a date stone inscribed WM 1673 on the lintel of the main doorway. By 1699 there was a house on the site of Cross Farm, which takes its name from the cross, probably of medieval origin, on the opposite side of the road. Manor Farm has a doorway which may date from c. 1700, and there was a house on the site of Fold Farm by 1716. Four of the farms on the outskirts of the village can be traced from the 17th century. Two stand beneath Sheen Hill north of the village, Slate House, mentioned in 1611, and High Sheen, (which was the home of the Mort family) by 1620. High Sheen was evidently rebuilt by Thomas Mort in 1663: a stone bearing his name and the date has been reset by the present entrance. His widow Mary was assessed for tax on three hearths in 1666.The hall and parlour end survive from a three-roomed house of coursed rubble stone with ashlar dressings; there is a richly ornamented entrance doorway inside the present entrance, and the hall has moulded ceiling beams and a broad segmental arch over the fireplace."
So what more do we know of the Staffordshire branch of this family? Who was Thomas Mort and where did he come from originally?
Jean Durbin continues with the story:-
THOMAS MORT by JEAN DURBIN:
The Mort's have been living in Sheen since 1532. Thomas MORT lived at High Sheen. He died in 1663 and was buried on the 20th Feb 1663. His will was dated 13 Feb 1663. I have a transcription of his will if any of the Mortfamily members are interested. According to his will, he was certainly well off and had lands in Lancashire at Peel and Little Hulton.
There is a connection between my Hallowes family in Wetton to this Mort family in Sheen. Thomas MORT was married to Mary but I don't know who she was and when she died. They had the following children:
THE CHILDREN OF THOMAS & MARY MORT:
(The Sheen register is missing from 1649-1652 owing to the Civil War in England.)
Thomas Mort - no baptism found but he was mentioned in his fathers will.
Ann Mort- baptised 28th March 1653 Sheen
Margaret Mort baptised 2nd Aug 1656 Sheen
Richard Mort baptised 27th Aug 1658 Sheen (also a second entry in Alstonfield on 16th Sep 1658.)
Mary Mort baptised 24th Jan 1660 Sheen (also a second entry in Alstonfield on 14th Feb 1660/67.) This may be because Sheen was in the Alstonfield parish.
Adam Mort baptised 1st Dec 1663 Sheen
Thomas MORT senior may be the son of a Gervase/Margaret MORTT baptised 22 Feb 1612 Sheen. Gervase Mort has been recorded as being a reader at the Church in 1607. Thomas may have been married twice but I have no real evidence of a first marriage.
There are a number of earlier MORTTs in Sheen and Alstonfield if your members would be interested in these. I also have another earlier will and could send you a
rudimentary gedcom as well.
There are no MORT entries in Sheen after 1689 and I would presume that most of them would have relocated, some probably back to Peel Hall, Little Hulton in Lancashire. I can conclude this as I have a HALLOWES will dated 1695 mentioning the children of Thomas MORT.
It would appear that once again, the origins of the Morts of Staffordshire lies with the Mort’s of Lancashire and in particular Adam Mort of Damm House in Astley.
One of Adam Mort’s son’s was Thomas of Hulton. Thomas was born in 1599 at Peel Hall and later married Margaret Smith. Thomas and Margaret had 6 children. One of these children was refered to as Thomas Mort of Peel who was born about 1624 in Tyldesley Lancashire. Thomas married a lady called Mary. Could they be the Thomas and Mary mentioned in the story of Sheen as having lived in a farm called ‘High Sheen’? It is more than likely as both Thomas and Mary’s had the same number of children, born at the same time, given the same names and who married the same people. A 99.9% certainty I would say!
The 3 sons of Thomas and Mary were Thomas, Richard and Adam.
The 3 daughters were:
Margaret who married William Plungen on the 23rd September 1684 in ManchesterCathedral.
Ann who married Thomas Sutton on the 9th November 1679 at Wetton Staffordshire.
Mary who married Thomas Froggatt.
It is probable that Thomas married again and that his 2nd wife was called Hannah. By his 2nd marriage he had a son also called Thomas. Thomas Froggatt junior was the devisee of the estates of Thomas Sutton and married Hannah Jodrell of the well known Cheshire family (re Jodrell Bank). A monument to Hannah can be found in Chester Cathedral. They had 2 daughters and a son. The son ‘Thomas Mort Froggatt’ married Mary Wilde. Their daughter Sarah Froggatt married Malcolm Nugent Ross in 1844. The 2 Grandsons of Sarah and Malcolm were the infamous George Nugent, Ross Wetherall and Henry Augustus Wetherall.
These extracts are taken from the ‘Preston Guilds’ on the Mortfamily website:-
The black year of the Morts, 1885
Three descendants of that great Adam Mort, Katharine Wetherall, George Nugent Ross Wetherall and Henry Augustus Wetherall in this year were in direst straits of penury. A solicitor Joseph Guedalla of London was asked to bring some semblance of solvency into the financial chaos of the estate and the preamble of a deed made December 17, 1885, speaks herewith its own language:
"Whereas the said George Nugent Ross Wetherall and his brother Henry Augustus Wetherall having incurred debts and liabilities to divers persons and for very large amounts including in many cases liability for interest calculated at extraordinary high rates and including liabilities on acceptances over due and being pressed by their creditors and actually sued by several of them lately requested and employed the said Joseph Guedalia to negotiate and arrange with the creditors by whom they were being pressed for an adjustment or settlement of their respective demands upon the footing of payments in full or on account or by way of composition being made to them in cases where a course should seem to the said Joseph Guedalia to be expedient and time being given for the payment of liabilities not discharged by payment."
Guedalia succeeded in staving off litigation. He lent £11,050 and held £2,300 promissory notes of George Nugent as endorsee. So in 1885 this was the low estate of the once rich banking family of the Mort’s of Astley. Was it riotous living or the effects of insidious inflation or bad management of a large estate or competition from the vast prairie lands of the new world, which made farming so difficult in a small country like England? Whatever the true cause, it was clear such a state of affairs could not go on for much longer. The end and with it the great and lamentable consequences came four years later.
Appointment of a receiver, November 26, 1886
On this date Mrs. C. M. Champagne, one of the principal Mortgagees of Astley Hall appointed under powers Atherton Selby as receiver of all the profits of the estate. Soon after, it was discovered that the Astley and Tyldesley Coal Co. Ltd. had for a long time paid no way leave rents for the right to wind coal to the surface through Wetherall's land. The matter was brought to their notice and a compromise agreement of £962 was agreed upon. This omission reflects in some measure the laxity with which the estate management was run. It was a grave mistake this dependence on Tyldesley for such services as water, gas and purification. It led to endless dispute and was a mistake for which Astley townsfolk paid dearly in the years that followed.
George Nugent Ross Wetherall, 1893
The direct representative of the grand line of Adam Mort of Astley, George Nugent Ross Wetherall died in 1893, at Hill Crest, Adlestone, Surrey. In this world of unstable of change and fickle uncertainties he had come down far; he was able to leave only £297. In 1891 he wound up the affairs of Augustus White Wetherall, who had died rector of Stonegrave in Yorkshire, May 7 of that year. The younger brother Henry vanished without any trace. So the last of the squires of Astley rode down to the sea."
From: 'Townships: Astley', A History of the County of Lancashire: Volume 3 (1907):
Thomas Mort of Dam House, great-grandson of Adam Mort, conveyed the manor to trustees in 1716, who sold it to Thomas Sutton, whose wife Mary, daughter of Robert Bateman of Chesterfield, was relict of Alexander Mort, brother of Thomas Mort of Dam House. In 1734 Thomas Sutton, gent., and Mary his wife conveyed the manor to trustees for the benefit of Thomas Froggat, then a minor, grandson of Mary Mort, one of the daughters of Thomas Mort of Peel ( as in Thomas of High Sheen).
Sarah grand - daughter of Thomas Froggat by her first husband John Adam Durie, capt. 93rd Highlanders, had - amongst other issue who all died unmarried - a daughter Katherine, who married first Henry Wayet Davenport, who died in 1845, by whom she had no issue, and secondly Sir Edward Robert Wetherall, K.C.S.I., C.B., major-general and aidede-camp to her late Majesty Queen Victoria. In 1856 he was living at Dam House. Upon his death in 1869 he was succeeded by his eldest son, George Nugent Ross, late of the 15th Hussars, who died s.p. in 1893, when he was succeeded by his brother Henry Augustus Wetherall, formerly of the 20th Hussars and Coldstream Guards,. The later Lord of the Manor, sold the estate of Dam House (now called Astley Hall) to a number of gentlemen, who subsequently sold the house and grounds to the Leigh Urban Council for the purpose of a sanatorium for infectious diseases.
As a matter of interest, the males descended from the Mort line always had a useful knack of mixing in the right circles and marrying well. In case it sounds like doom and gloom and the end of Adam Morts legacy of Astley Manor, George Nugent Ross Wetherall did come up smelling of roses. He married the daughter of Lord and Lady Henry Gordon ‘Wilhelmina Gordon’.
Wilhelmina’s sister marred Lord Augustus Fitzclarence who was the youngest son of King William IV from the Royal house of Hanover. So even in troubled times, George could still rub shoulders with his royal brother in law.
They just seemed to have a knack of surviving!