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Date:1086 - 2015 (c.)

Description:Betley, once described as “one of the smallest and pleasantest market towns in the county” is situated on the borders of Cheshire, six miles north west of Newcastle–under-Lyme. Originally it was in the ancient parish of Audley and included the hamlet of Ravenshall and part of the village of Wrinehill. The Parish Council is now responsible for the wards of Betley, Balterley and Wrinehill.

The village name is of Anglo-Saxon origin and probably means ‘Beta’s woodland glade’.

In the Domesday Book of 1086 the manor of Betelege, or Betley, was part of the extensive lands of Wulfwin [Uluuin] and tenanted by Godric and Wulfgeat [Ulviet] who were free men. There was enough arable land to support one plough with 2 villeins (an unfree tenant who held his land by performing agricultural services) and 1 bordar (a small holder of land who farmed on the edge of the settlement). There was one acre of meadow and woodland a league in length and half a league in breadth. The manor was worth four shillings annually.

Betley was originally owned by Henry de Betley but in the twelfth century he sold it to Henry de Audley. Henry III granted a charter for a weekly market in 1227.

In the Heath Tax assessment of 1666 a total of 98 households were assessed for tax and 33 people were exempt from payment. The largest property was that of Randle Egerton, esquire, and had 6 hearths. He owned Betley Old Hall and was an MP for Staffordshire 1661 – 1669.

Betley Old Hall, a timber-framed building, later known as Old Hall Farm, was originally owned by the Egerton family and bought from them by George Tollet in 1718. The Betley Window, depicting morris dancers, was originally housed here. The date of the window is uncertain but is likely to have been painted before 1535. It was moved from the Old Hall to the New Hall and remained there until 1895. It was bought by the Bridgman family and the original is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. There is a replica in Betley Court.

Charles Tollet built the new and larger Betley Hall in the 1780’s. It was in the Georgian style with a tree-lined drive and a new lake known as Betley Hall Pool. When he died in 1796 the Hall passed to a relation, George Embury, who changed his name to become George Tollet IV. He had a variety of interests including politics and agriculture. Visitors to the house included Charles Darwin, Mrs Gaskell the novelist and Florence Nightingale. The house is now demolished.

Betley Court was built in 1716 by John Craddock, a lawyer. Several important local families had connections with the house: the Craddocks, the Fentons, the Fletchers and the Bougheys. John Nash carried out alterations to the house for Sir Thomas Fletcher, in the early 19th century. Betley Court was further expanded by Thomas Fletcher-Twemlow when he succeeded to the estate in 1865. It was used as a hospital during the war, then remained empty until it was restored by the present owners.

The parish church is dedicated to St Margaret. It is a rare example of a timber constructed church containing an arcade of Spanish chestnut tree trunks carved into octagons in the fifteenth century. The church was rebuilt in 1610 The tower, originally of timber, was blown down in a gale in the 17th century and was replaced by the present one. Sir Gilbert Scott restored the nave in the 1840s. There is a panelled Jacobean pulpit and also a finely carved Spanish chestnut screen which dates back to the late 14th or early 15th century. There was a gallery, built to enlarge the church from the early 18th century, but it was demolished in 1957. The east window was erected in memory of Thomas William Fletcher-Twemlow who died on August 18th 1900 after being hit on the head by a cricket ball at Eton College.

A Methodist Society was founded in Betley in 1803 and on April 20th 1805 Richard Brampton registered a meeting house. In 1808 a Wesleyan Chapel was built. Later, Primitive Methodism was introduced to Betley by William Clowes, one of its founders. A day school was opened by the Primitive Methodists for children in the village, and in 1833 had one boy and seven girls on the roll.

In the early 18th century Mary Lea left forty shillings in her will for the education of ten poor children at school. They were to be taught to read and also to write if they could provide the writing materials themselves. The first school was in the incumbent’s house and he was usually also the schoolmaster. By 1833 there were separate Day and Sunday National Schools for boys and girls, both schools having lending libraries. These were later replaced by the new National Schools, opened in 1855.

In addition there was other educational provision within the village. In 1762 a Catholic boarding school for boys was opened at Tower View. It expanded and moved to Sedgley where it later combined with Cotton College, Oakamoor to become an important centre for Catholic education in Staffordshire.

In the 19th century, alongside the National Schools, there was a private boarding school for girls at Betley, a boys’ school at Wrinehill, dame schools, the small Primitive Methodist School and also Betley Ladies College, which closed in 1914.