Although it boasts a hall once set in its own park then later largely given over to a hospital and subsequently housing, Aston-on-Trent has never really been a true estate village, wholly incorporated in the landed holdings of the local squire. The family who owned the hall did manage, as time went on, to buy up much of the land in the village. In the 18th century however, the land in the parish was much more fragmented.
One part of the parish was held by the Abbey of Dale and this portion, once liberated onto the open market by the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536-39, remained separate from the portions acquired from the Hunt family and others by the upwardly mobile Holden family (who built the present Hall in 1735). This eventually was acquired from the Sacheverells, then going extinct, by Joseph Greaves, second son of John Greaves of Stanton Woodhouse, Stanton-in-Peak and of The Greaves in Beeley, the scion of an ancient local family who had vastly enriched himself in the exploitation of lead (in partnership with the Sacheverells).
His acquisition seems to date from around the 1730s, just when the Hall was about to begin construction, which one is inclined to think encouraged Greaves to begin building too, although he actually lived in newly erected Ingleby Toft, across the river, built by the Burdetts of Foremark Hall, of whose estate he was agent. There are no building records for the house, which he probably started in the later 1730s. It was later somewhat enlarged and we can only deduce its early history from photographs.
My late friend Professor Andor Gomme, the biographer of Francis Smith of Warwick, thought Aston Hall was a late work by his hero, who died in 1736. If so, one wonders whether Smith, or his son and successor (who also worked in Derbyshire) was recruited by Greaves to design the original villa that later became Aston Lodge. The house that he built (almost opposite the Hall) was of three stories, of brick with dressings of Keuper sandstone from the nearby quarry at Weston Cliff.
It was a double pile house, five bays wide, the wide central bay breaking slightly forward under a modest pediment, the whole topped by a cornice and part-balustraded parapet. The windows boasted gauged brick lintels centred by a stone keyblock. The garden front was similar but lacked the pediment and it was set in modest grounds to the east of the village. Joseph Greaves, junior (a barrister) inherited the house at 18 in 1749 and later married the sister of Sir Brooke Boothbys Bt., the enlightenment poet, networker and friend of Rousseau. He died in 1780 leaving two daughters, of whom the elder was married to Edward Sneyd of Byonby Lodge, Staffordshire, who inherited it, whilst Greaves’s widow remained in residence until 1791 when she moved to Lichfield and the house, grounds and modest estate were sold with 68 acres for £4,500. By 1798 most of the land had been acquired via an intermediary by James Sutton of Shardlow, who had made his fortune in canal haulage on the Trent and Mersey. The house was bought by Erasmus Darwin’s nephew,
William Brown Darwin for his mother, Jane, who lived there until about 1815, when it was again sold. The purchaser was George Redmond Hulbert (1774-1825), fresh from financially rewarding service in the Royal Navy during two decades of the wars against France. He was a remarkable man who had been attached to various admirals, local hero Sir John Borlase Warren chief amongst them, as secretary and also as agent charged with applying for and obtaining prize money from the Admiralty whenever an enemy ship was captured and delivered to a home port, entitling the captain and all the crew to a share. In the process, Hulbert farmed a percentage and such was the success of the Royal Navy that a great deal of money was distributed, to Hulbert’s benefit as much as the crews involved. Consequently he was able to acquire a country house. He kept a string of racehorses there and as a result enlarged the stables, building a single storey ballroom attached to one side of the house and a service wing to the other. The garden front was also embellished with a full height curved bow.
These alterations were contemporary with similar ones at the hall, attributable to Derby amateur architect Richard Leaper, and may well also have been by him. In 1827 Hulbert’s widow sold the house to Sutton, who made other alterations but then decided he had no personal need of it and remained in Shardlow Hall. Consequently he let it throughout the 19th century, starting with William Drury Holden, who left in 1837 having inherited Locko Park and assumed the surname and arms of Lowe.
He was succeeded by Constantia, widow of Thomas Walker of Ravensdale in Yorkshire, a member of the Rotherham founding dynasty and daughter of Hon. John Beresford, brother of the 1st Marquess of Waterford, an Anglo-Irish family with deep Derbyshire roots. A third widow was Emily, Lady Palmer, widow of Sir George Palmer of Wanlip, Leics. 3rd Bt. who died there in 1871. She was succeeded by William Welby – of the notable Lincolnshire family, not a relative of the Archbishop of Canterbury – then Charles Hope, a scion of the old Derby family and after him Charles Bradshaw Bowles, a noted antiquary and heir of the Bradshaws of Eyam, who was a co-founder of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society. He was followed by Karl Peters, a German-born Derby iron founder who had previously lived in Mickleover and who died in 1904. The Sutton family then sold the house to Reginald Boden (1872-1952) of the Derby lace-manufacturing dynasty. He was third son of Henry Boden of the Friary and his mother, who came to live with him, was a Holden of Aston Hall – hence his choice of residence, for he had previously lived at Fern Hill, Quarndon and he also owned an estate at Kirk Langley.
He replaced Hulbert’s racing stables with something more modern, added a water tower, a second bow on the garden front, rebuilt the ground floor on the entrance front to include a new door and deeper reception rooms, and raised the ballroom wing (closely resembling that at Chaddesden Hall) to make the façade symmetrical. His architect was probably Alexander MacPherson of Derby. He also had William Barron & Sons re-landscape the grounds. He also bought the gates (by Robert Bakewell) and their piers from the river front of Rivett House in Tenant Street, Derby and had Edwin Haslam renovate them. He also removed the round monogram ‘TR’ (for Thomas Rivett, an 18th century Derby MP and co-founder of the Cockpit Hill pot works) from the overthrow and replace it with one reading ‘RB’ in matching style.
These graced the Main Street entrance of the house and show up well in the famous postcard view of the house. The original ‘TR’ monogram, rescued by the late Alfred Goodey, is in Derby Industrial Museum’s collection. The Bodens moved away in the mid-1920s but after a brief period as a nursing home, no tenant could be found and in 1932 the house was demolished by Albert Loomes (more famous today for a car-cracker’s yard on Megaloughton Lane) and the materials sold. Eventually the stables were converted to residences and houses built over much of the site. The gates were bought for £33 by Long Eaton UDC who re-erected them at West Park where they can still be enjoyed to this day, one of the few remaining reminders of a notable Derbyshire house.]