THE ORIGINS OF THE BRADFORD FAMILY'S CONNECTION WITH THE AREA BEGAN WITH WILLIAM I'S NORMAN CONQUEST IN 1066 WHICH SAW GRANTING OF THE ENGLISH LANDS TO HIS COUNTRYMEN.
Since the C11th, the direct ancestors to the current Earls of Bradford have called Weston-under-Lizard home. Witness to many family milestones over the years, the local church St Andrew’s proudly displays wooden effigies to the family members who fought as Knights Templar in the C13th crusades.
In 1651 the estate passed through marriage to the Mytton’s and with it came an architectural vision to renovate the family home. Whilst honeymooning with her husband Sir Thomas Wilbraham, heiress Elizabeth Mytton studied European architecture and set herself a mission of a Baroque revival to transform the house at Weston. Completed 20 years later in 1671, her involvement in the design of the house was unprecedented for a woman at this time.
Just over 100 years later, the family name changed again, as the Wilbrahams’ eldest Mary married Richard Newport, heir to the Earldom of Bradford, in 1681. The Newports were historic Shropshire landowners, whose title, bestowed by William III & Mary II, related not to the North Yorkshire city but the hundredth (an administrative area to yield a hundred soldiers) of Shropshire containing their seat, High Ercall Hall.
- 1066: LAND GRANTS TO HIS COUNTRYMEN BY WILLIAM I THE NORMAN CONQUEST
- 1651: Heiress Elizabeth WILBRAHAM transforms the house at Weston into a Baroque revival
- C19th: The family build the Mongomeryshire canal to support the industrial revolution
- 1855: The Tong Castle estate is purchased to become part of the estates
- C21st: Regenerative farming & sustainable practises are adopted
In the years that followed, the Earldom of Bradford went briefly into abeyance on the death of the 4th Earl, Sir Henry Bridgeman, 5th Baronet of Great Lever inherited the estate at Weston from his mother, sister of the 3rd Earl. With Sir Henry in place, the estates were taken in a more progressive direction and ambitious changes started to flourish.
Sir Henry spearheaded landscape innovation at Weston Park, commissioning Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to recreate the parkland with a vision that would provide uninterrupted views of the Lizard Wood and surrounding woodlands.
In C19th’s Industrial Revolution, ground-breaking transformation was made on the estates for their residents and businesses including: the paving and lighting of the growing town of Bolton, the construction of the Montgomeryshire Canal to Llanymynech to transport stone aggregates, the development of Walsall’s mining and leather industries, and the first sanitation in the town of Wigan.
Using this new industrial income, the Bradford Estates grew again, purchasing the adjacent Blymhill estate and then the Tong Castle estate in 1855 from the Durant family. In C20th, this trend continued with purchases of the adjoining Boscobel estate in 1918 (the house & Royal Oak gifted to English Heritage in 1954) and the Wood Eaton estate post Second World War.
The principal Bradford house, Weston Park, and its 1,000 acres of parkland, left family ownership after the death of the 6th Earl in 1981, gifted by his son to the Weston Park Foundation. Today it is an independent educational and conservation charity.
In 2019, the most recent the acquisition of Burlington Farm took Bradford Estates to 12,000 acres in Shropshire and Staffordshire. Driven by Alexander, Viscount Newport, the future 8th Earl, a new progressive, sustainable land strategy is being created, to facilitate the introduction of regenerative farming and new tree planting on the estates.