80 years of estates life

Edna’s eight decades of memories living on country estate. A fascinating insight into life on a country estate has been revealed by a woman who has lived there for more than eight decades.

Edna Whitfield was born and has lived her entire life on the Estates on the Shropshire and Staffordshire border. Now aged 83, she remembers highlights in the estates’ history, including the 1998 G8 summit attended by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton at Weston Park. She has praise the estates’ enduring community spirit.

Mrs Whitfield was born at the Shrewsbury Lodge, on Bradford Estates, in 1938 and was surrounded by extended family as she grew up and lived in various properties within its grounds. She said she had fond memories of her grandfather tending the gardens at the Park, landscaped by Capability Brown. Bradford Estates has passed by family descent since the Middle Ages, having been owned successively by the de Westons, Peshales, Myttons, Wilbrahams, Newport, and Bridgeman families, and now covers 12,000 acres with over 145 residential properties and commercial and farming activities.

The Weston Park G8 summit was certainly a highlight for her. “It was a wonderful and exciting time, and Tony Blair shook my hand,” she said.

“I always think if you are kind and friendly, people tend to be kind and friendly back.”

She also remembers visits by other famous faces including Chris Tarrant, the late Paul Daniels and Lesley Joseph. Mrs Whitfield worked for the Fifth Earl of Bradford, Orlando Bridgeman, and also has memories of the Sixth Earl, Gerald Bridgeman, the Seventh Earl, Richard Bridgeman, and today Alexander, Viscount Newport, the current managing director of Bradford Estates. Her extended family had all lived in the area, including aunts, uncles and cousins. Her father passed away when she was just a young child, leaving her mother a widow, aged only 27.

But the idyllic pace of life on the estates had helped to see the family through the difficult times, including the Second World War, creating many happy childhood memories.
“Of course, it’s wonderful to travel to different places and try different experiences in life but there is something very comforting about growing up within a close-knit community and then raising your own children in that same community,” said Mrs Whitfield.

“I had an extremely happy childhood and remember spending so much time with my grandparents. There is a sense of freedom and safety here.

“I loved to play in the grounds of the estates and remember Richard the Seventh Earl being born and seeing him out for walks with his nanny on the grounds. I think one of my favourite times was at the May Day celebrations which was always a very colourful event that brought everyone together. I loved all the flowers that were involved in that.” Alexander Newport, managing director at Bradford Estates, is always delighted to see Edna pop into the estates office and said it was heart warming to hear her tale. “It’s incredible to hear the rich history that Edna has been a part of for the past eight decades on the estates, some of which is linked to my own family,” he said.