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Date:1086 - 2015 (c.)

Description:The village of Alton is situated high above the Churnet Valley, about four miles east from the town of Cheadle and seven miles north west of the town of Uttoxeter.

The place name, Alton, derives from the Anglo-Saxon and means ‘Aelfa’s farmstead’. It has also been known by the later name of ‘Alveton’.

In the Domesday Book of 1086 the manor is recorded as ‘Elvetone’. It formed part of the lands of the King and was large enough to support two ploughs. The King’s tenant was recorded as uunar. In the 12th century the manor of Alton was acquired by Bertram de Verdun. From the Verduns, the manor and estate passed through the Furnivalls and Nevills until it came into the ownership of the Talbots, the Earls of Shrewsbury.

It was Bertram de Verdun who built a large castle at Alton in about 1175. The ruins of this castle were incorporated some centuries later in the 1840s into a ‘new’ castle designed by AWN Pugin. Pugin was also responsible for re-building a mediaeval hospital for the care of the poor which was adjacent to the castle. Although neither castle or hospital were completely finished, Pugin’s design, coupled with the location, is stunning and Alton Castle has been compared to a Rhineland castle.

By the time of the Hearth Tax assessment of 1666, a total 44 households were assessed as liable for the payment of the tax in Alton. This provides some indication of the size and population of the village at that time. Although further householders were considered to be too poor to pay the tax, it is not possible to distinguish these households from a list including neighbouring settlements.

Alton’s parish church is dedicated to St Peter and dates from the Norman period. The tower was built in the 14th century. The church was enlarged and largely rebuilt in 1830. There were also chapels for Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists and for Independents

Alton is dominated by Alton Towers, today a major visitor attraction in Staffordshire. However the origins of Alton Towers lie in the complete transformation of Alton Lodge, a modest Georgian country house, by the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury and his nephew and successor, the 16th Earl, to one of the most important buildings of the Gothic Revival. Although several architects were employed at Alton, it was Pugin’s ambitious work at Alton in the Gothic Revival style which dominated. The famous gardens were laid out mainly under the direction of Thomas Allason (1790-1852) and Robert Abrahams (1774-1850) and have attracted very many visitors throughout the 20th century. The design and planting was enlivened by a plethora of garden buildings.

Following the death of the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury in 1856, the estate passed to the Earls Talbot of Ingestre following a protracted lawsuit, which eventually granted to them the title of Earls of Shrewsbury. Most of the contents of Alton Towers were sold in 1857. The house and particularly the gardens were developed by the 20th Earl as a tourist attraction in the 1890s. In 1918, however, much of the Alton estate was sold off and in 1924 Alton Towers itself was sold to a group of local businessmen. The house remained empty, although partly used to provide tourist amenities. It was later requisitioned in the Second World War by the Officer Cadet Training Unit. In 1952 following its handing back, the building was gutted under instructions from its then owners, leaving the shell which is there today.

The Churnet Valley railway line, a branch of the North Staffordshire Railway, passed through Alton. Despite Pugin’s pleas to the contrary, Alton station was built in the Italianate style favoured by the North Staffordshire Railway Company and was completed for the opening of the railway in 1849. The line was closed in 1965.

Former local industries included lead and copper mining and the manufacture of brass wire. The latter was moved to Froghall in the early 19th century. For a short time also paper making was carried out at one of Alton’s mills.