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First published in The Potter November 2006
Text © Copyright John Heaton 2006

Tittensor Chase

Introduction

I think it was some time about 5 years ago that Brian Billington wrote an article for The Potter detailing the historical background to one part of Tittensor Chase, the ancient hill fort at the southern end called Bury Walls. Something he said in the article about other places on our maps having a notable history set me thinking. I began to collect and research information randomly on all our areas. At the time I was interested in mainly trivial or unusual facts. I then used some of the information for the questions in the quizzes which I put on at the New Year Socials. At one of these there was a low attendance so I thought it would be a good idea to repeat some of the questions in The Potter. This led me to, two years ago, embarking on this series of articles with as much detail as I could find on each area. It is a coincidence that an article that sowed the seeds should be the last one I do on our areas in current use.

Map and Event History

Tittensor Chase was surveyed and plotted by Dave Peel at the end of 1999, in time for the first event in January 2000. This C4 Colour Coded Event, was planned by Paul Graetz and organized by Geoff Hollins. A local event was planned for 2001, but cancelled due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic. In February 2002 Geoff planned a Local Event. Paul and Geoff repeated their duties for a C4 Event in March 2004, with Alison Corbett assisting as co-organizer. The forthcoming New Years Day Score event will, not surprisingly, be planned by Paul with, for a change, myself as organizer. Geoff did however do the early organizers work before I took over.

There is a simple reason why Paul Graetz appears above (and is the same reason why my name appears on Hanley Forest Park fixtures), he lives just off the edge of the map. Paul negotiated the original access and deals with the local permissions for each event.

Geography

The main feature of the area is a 500m wide strip of forestry running parallel to the A34 just south of Tittensor village. At the south end is a 60m hill topped by the site of an ancient hill fort called Bury Bank. The slopes to the east have some interest with nine major re-entrants cutting into the hillside. The northmost is called Spring Vale referred to later in the modern history section. The remainder of the map comprises an area about 1km square. This gently slopes to the west and is 50% mixed woodland and 50% open including a hill called Saxons’ Lowe.

Early History

Detail of the very early history can be found in Brian’s 2000 article. I will summarize it. The small 15m hill in the open area at the centre of the map intrigued Brian. This is Saxons’ Lowe and is in gothic font on the OS map. The word Lowe or Low implies an ancient burial ground should be there, and its appearance would suggest this, but he could find no archaeological references. The obvious link to Bury Bank to the south helped shed some light. The hill fort original double embankments have been eroded over time, but still can be seen clearly through the bracken and scattered trees. A raised mound at the south end is suggested to be the site of the Palace of Wulfere, ruler of Mercia 658 - 676 AD. Could Saxons’ Lowe be his place of burial? Wulfere was originally a pagan, who killed both his children for converting to Christianity. Their mother buried them under a great pile of stones and this is reputed to be the origin of the name of nearby Stone. (Commemorated in the cast iron fencing on Stone High Street.) Wulfere later repented and himself converted and founded the monastery in Stone. Brian suspects this tale has been embroidered by the monks over the years.

Modern History

All the recent history stems from an old property that once stood in the north of the area called Spring Vale. The name still appears on the OS maps and is applied to the small valley that runs west from a thatched cottage just off the A34 at the far north end of the woodland. The earliest reference to the house is in the mid 1700s. It was owned by the Jervis family. A family member at that time was John Jervis who was born at Meaford Hall and went on to have a distinguished Navy career leading to become becoming First Lord of the Admiralty in 1801. In 1808 the house was brought by a Thomas Bakewell who created an asylum for the insane. In 1840 it was purchased by the Duke Of Sutherland, who is also recorded in 1920 as the owner of the whole area of the Chase. An old engraving dating from 1830 shows a view of the house with a 10m fountain emerging from a pond in the foreground. The house was demolished on an unknown date. The engraving appears to show it in the vicinity of the large property currently standing, this has the name Tittensor Chase. The cottage at the end of Spring Vale is the Lodge to Tittensor Chase house and I have found photographs of this dated 1900. I can only guess that this house was built on the site of Spring Vale house. Tittensor Chase house was owned at one point by the Copeland family (owners of Spode China) who also owned Kibblestone Hall which stood on the site of the scout camp until its demolition in 1954. The Copeland family started a scout troop in 1910 and eventually donated the grounds to the movement.

John Heaton