"Acacia Cottage", Lilleshall

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When Charles Jeggo retired in 1900, he moved into a cottage in the village:  20, Church Road, Lilleshall, where he remained until he died in 1912.

The present (2004) owner, Ron Falder, has lived in it for about 30 years, and emailed this photograph taken in 2002.  He wrote, "When we bought the property it was (and still is) called 'Acacia Cottage'.  The house was owned by the Sutherlands until the break-up sale of the estate which occurred in, I think, 1914.  The property was bought by the then tenant, George Adams, who was the retired head gardener of the Sutherland estate."

The "Lilleshall Hall" handout of the National Sports Centre confirms this date.  "The 5th Duke ... sold some 250 acres of the Lilleshall Estate retaining the Hall itself and 50 acres of gardens".

Ron also kindly supplied a photocopy of those chapters of a book which are about the cottage:

"A Rag Bag of Memories" by Hilda Hitchin (published by Hilda Hitchin, Newport, Shropshire, 1998)

Hilda Hitchin was born in Kidderminster in 1904, spent most of her working life living and teaching in the Black Country, and moved to the country, to Acacia Cottage, at the time of her retirement in 1964.  The following extracts are from her book.

"The Duke of Sutherland, who had now moved to his estates in Scotland, had built cottages all over his huge estate for his work people.  Each one had a good garden, a pig sty, a damson tree and, often, a walnut tree also.  They were easily recognisable and were only to be found within his estate.  This one had belonged to his head gardener and, since his death, his old daughter had lived there alone and had become unwilling, or unable, to have anything done.  She had recently died there.

"There was electric light but no power plugs.  No hot water, no sanitation.  We found a two-seater earth closet near the pigsty, which was rather daunting after living so long in a modern house, but we were told there was no sewerage anywhere in the village but it was promised sometime soon (hopefully)!  We peered in through a tiny ivy-covered window at the back of the house, but it was so dark, we could see little.

"There must have been nearly a quarter of an acre of garden with a farm gate at the far end leading into the lane, a small paved yard, with a pump and a coach house (with a very wavy roof short of a few tiles) and a wide drive from the gate.  This was for the gardener's pony and trap which he drove every morning to superintend his army of under gardeners at the great house.

"Inside were the manger and hay racks, as found in any old stable, a cobbled floor with a drain, a post with several ponies' names painted on it, a ladder on the wall to a loft where we found large apple trays for winter storage and an ancient, very ancient, wheel chair!  There was also a small building with a copper (wash boiler) and a slab for salting the pig.  Two dark old sheds inside the farm gate, for tools and for fuel, completed our first survey.

"There were three bedrooms with pretty little tiled cast-iron fireplaces, a wide landing with a large wardrobe cupboard, a curved staircase, not too steep or dangerous.

"Inside the front door was a narrow hall dividing the two living rooms, one obviously the parlour, which was where the old lady had lived, as it was in reasonable condition.  The dining room had a red tiled floor (these being laid directly on bare earth, as we discovered later).  The rooms were light, as they both had windows on two sides, but the small narrow kitchen was very dark, as the roof sloped down over a tiny narrow window with an old brown sink beneath.  In a corner was an ugly old boiler, but the caretaker was quick to tell us not to attempt to light it, as it always filled the place with smoke!

"Then, the jewel in the crown, at the end of the kitchen, a door and, inside, a bathroom!  The bath was huge, with a wide mahogany surround.  It was green at the end, under the taps, and there was a T-shaped lever to lift to let the water out.  We were told that when the Duchess had a new bath, she gave this old one to her trusty head gardener, but he had never been able to use it as the faulty boiler for the hot water only produced smoke instead.

"The Duke was very good to his cottagers, so we were told, but was reputed to stand up in his pew on Sundays before the organ had finished playing and scan the pews of the congregation to see if any of them were missing and woe betide them next morning if they were!  The Duchess had given the fine organ, which is still there."



Sadly, Hilda Hitchin died in March 2004, just half a year short of her century.  I am grateful to her son, Peter Hitchin, for permission to reproduce the above text.
He wrote that the head gardener's daughter had lived there until well into her 90's.  He too remembers the "old bath, with a huge handle at the end which opened a grate to let the water out.  It would probably be worth a fortune now but the builders smashed it up to make it easy to get out!"