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Shugborough Hall and Anson Family


Shugborough Hall is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield and it is situated in a river valley on the edge of Cannock Chase in the heart of Staffordshire, England.

It is Owned by the National Trust, the house is financed and administered by Staffordshire County Council.

In 1624, 8 acres of land together with a Manor House were purchased at the time by William Anson, a local lawyer, for the princely sum of £1000.

The story of Shugborough really begins 300 years ago in 1693 when William’s grandson, also called William (1656-1720) demolished the manor house and built a three-storied house, which forms the centre of the house today. The transformation of that medium sized country house into a magnificent Georgian Mansion was carried out between 1745 and 1748 by the architect Thomas Wright (1711-1786), who added the pavilions either side of the 17th century block.

Shugborough HallIt was the two great grandsons of the first William Anson who were responsible for these important changes. Thomas (1695 - 1773), born in 1695, inherited the house, and it is his passion for the classical arts, influenced by his grand tour of Europe, that we see reflected in the house today, particularly in the rococo plasterwork of the dining room and library. But it was his daring and adventurous brother George (1697 - 1762), born in 1697, who provided the funding for these alterations.


George AnsonGeorge Anson joined the navy at the age of 14, and through his exciting navy career brought fame, fortune and prestige to the Anson family name. In 1747 he was created Lord Anson and in 1751 was promoted to the first Lord of the Admiralty. We remember him best for his incredible voyage of circumnavigation of the globe between 1740 – 1744. He bought back with him a beautiful collection of Chinese wares, which is still displayed in the house today.

During that eventful voyage, Anson’s ship, the Centurion, after encountering many hardships and losing most of its crew, successfully fought and captured a Spanish treasure galleon (Nuestra Señora de Covadonga). The treasure amounting to £400,000, was one of the largest prizes ever taken at sea by an English captain. Some of his fortune was used to develop Shugborough and acquire more land.

George Anson married Lady Elizabeth  Yorke, daughter of the first Earl of Hardwick in 1748. They had no children and on his death his brother Thomas inherited the fortune. With this fortune Thomas was able to further his passion for classical architecture.

Thomas Anson was a founder member of the Dilettanti Society, established for the encouragement of Greek classical art. His friend James Stuart was commissioned to build a series of eight monuments in the parkland. He never married and on his death the estate passed on to his sister’s son George Adams. George Adams assumed the name and arms of Anson; when he died the estate became his son Thomas'. Thomas Anson made great changes to Shugborough.

Thomas Anson is listed nineteenth in the list of members of the Society of Dilettanti which was drawn up on the 6th March 1736. He joined at the same time as a Cheshire friend, William Degge, whose brother Simon had joined the Royal Society with him in 1730.

The Society of Dilettanti had been founded by Sir Francis Dashwood and other travellers in Italy including Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex and Lord Boyne, in 1731. At first it was a club for gentlemen who had visited Italy though Horace Walpole said the real qualification was that they were drunk. It only gradually started to promote serious interest in the arts of the classical world.

 There are no records of Thomas Anson’s involvement with the Society, and yet the evidence of his support for James “Athenian” Stuart suggests he was a key figure in encouraging the Greek Revival.

James Stuart, later known as “Athenian Stuart”, and Nicholas Revett announced their plans to travel to Greece and measure and draw Greek architecture in 1748. They travelled to Greece in 1751, via Venice, where Sir James Gray, the British Resident, nominated them for membership of the Society of Dilettanti.

The first volume of the Antiquities of Athens (not published in 1762, and subscribed to by both Thomas and George Anson) illustrated mainly smaller late classical buildings which, by chance or design, were suitable for copying as garden monuments, or to supply features for other architectural projects.

Official Website Of Shugborough Hall and Estate Stafford

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