Church Eaton

Move your pointing device over the image to zoom to detail. If using a mouse click on the image to toggle zoom.
When in zoom mode use + or - keys to adjust level of image zoom.

Date:1086 - 2015 (c.)

Description:Church Eaton is a linear village situated approximately 2 miles south east of Gnosall and 6 miles from Stafford and Penkridge. The parish also includes the hamlets of Wood Eaton, High Onn, Little Onn , Marston, Shushions and Goosemoor. Apeton was added to Church Eaton in 1934 and Orslow was transferred to Blymhill at the same time.

The name ‘Eaton’ is Anglo-Saxon and means “town on the stream”. The description of ‘Church’ to the name was probably added in medieval times.

Church Eaton is recorded as Eitone in the Domesday Book of 1086. At that time the manor was part of the extensive lands of Robert de Stafford and tenanted to Godric. High Onn, Little Onn, Marston and Shushions are also recorded, each belonging to a different owner. The population consisted of three serfs (an unfree tenant who held land in return for rent and service), eight villeins (an unfree tenant who held his land by performing agricultural services) and eight borders (a small holder of land who farmed on the edge of the settlement) and the priest.

In the Hearth Tax assessment of 1666, 33 households at Church Eaton were assessed as liable for the payment of tax. The largest property was that of Mr Jonas Astley with six hearths. 18 households were recorded as being too poor to pay the hearth tax. The other villages were much smaller, Little Onn, for example, is recorded as having eight households and Marston had nine.

There has been a church at Church Eaton since before 1086 as the Domesday Book records a resident priest. In the 12th century the church was dedicated to St. Editha. The church is built of local sandstone. The tower is late 12th century or early 13th century with two Norman windows. In the early 13th century the north aisle was added and other additions and alterations have taken place throughout the centuries. The window on the east wall is 15th century in style, although possibly it is a later addition. It was thought to have come from the old St. Paul’s Cathedral in London but this has not been substantiated and it is more likely to have come from a more local source. There are two Norman windows in the west wall. From 1893 – 1906 memorial glass was put in all the windows, the majority being the work of Charles Eamer Kempe.

At Orslow, there was a mission room dedicated to the Good Shepherd. It opened in 1888 but closed about 18 years later. Before the First World War, Manor Farm at Marston was also used to hold services. During the 19th century two houses were registered for non-conformist meetings within the parish, that of John Riddings in 1815 and Ann Plant in 1816.

There was a Chantry School at Church Eaton from at least the 16th century for the education of boys. It is not known exactly when it became the Free Grammar School but it was probably in existence from at least the 17th century. By the late 18th century two schoolmistresses were funded by the trustees of the Free Grammar School to teach boys and girls to read. A National School for Girls and Infants was opened in 1860. It was built on the site of the old parish workhouse at Wood Eaton. In 1897 the National School and the Grammar School amalgamated in a new school at Church Eaton, built next to the former grammar school. The school ceased to provide education for secondary school children in 1957. It became a First School in 1978 and reverted to a primary school in 1988. Material from the demolished Free Grammar School was used to enlarge the Institute in 1924. This brick and half timbered building was given to the parish in 1892 by the Wyley family.

During the Second World War an R.A.F. station was built between Little Onn and Marston which was used for training. Eric Boon, the 1937 British Lightweight Boxing Champion ran the gymnasium in 1944, at the same time that Freddie Mills, British Light-Heavyweight Champion of 1942 was at the station. The airfield was no longer in use in 1947 but the WAAF accommodation was used to house Polish families at the end of the war.

Little Onn Hall was built 1874 – 5 with gardens later designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson, the landscape architect (1861 – 1933). St. Edith’s well, also at Little Onn, was noted for its healing properties.

High Onn manor house was originally surrounded by a moat. In 1255 it belonged to the Priory of Ware as part of the Abbey of St. Evroul in Normandy. After the Hundred Years War with France the Priory was given to the Priory of Sheen in Surrey. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIIII Sir John Giffard of Chillington, Brewood, bought the manor in 1540 and it remained with the Giffards until 1863. The lands were then sold to John Morris of Wood Eaton and High Onn manor house to James Wyley. The old house was demolished in the 19th century.