The village of Aston, situated close to the M1 a few miles southeast of Sheffield, is one of considerable antiquity. There has been a church here since about the year AD 700 and in the Domesday survey of 1086 the village, then known as Estone, was recorded as being an area of arable, pasture and woodland with a value of eight shillings.
Aston Hall was started in about 1772 and took nearly 50 years to finish. It was designed by the architect John Carr for the 4th Earl of Holderness. The poet Lord Byron used to stay here. Prior to 1790 Aston Hall was owned by the D'arcy family (the Earls of Holderness) also of Hornby Castle in north Yorks.
The manor house, known as Aston Hall, had been built by Archbishop Melton but was destroyed by fire on Christmas Day 1771. The present house, now an hotel, was designed by John Carr of York about 1772. Carr also built the former rectory opposite the church which is now known as High Trees. The rector at that time was the poet William Mason, whose friends included Horace Walpole, the actress Sarah Siddons and the poet Thomas Gray, all of whom visited the house. Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard is reputed to have been written in the summerhouse in the grounds of the rectory. High Trees is said to be haunted by the ghost of a rector's wife who, having been found having an affair with her butler, was murdered by her husband. There is said to be a bloodstain on the floor which cannot be removed.
The Hall itself, comprising a hall, a suite of entertaining rooms, 16 bedrooms and four bathrooms was purchased by Sir Ronald Matthew. Some years later it was converted into a mental hospital by the Health Authority, then, having been empty for some time, was renovated and is currently in use as the Aston Hall Hotel.
Robert D'Arcy, 4th Earl of Holderness died in 1778 and the Hall was sold to the Verelst family, in about 1790. Harry Verelst who bought the place succeeded Clive of India as goveror of Bengal (then part of the British Empire) and had made his fortune within the East India Company. In 1928 the estate was broken up in many lots, with the hall sold off to one Sir Ronald Matthews, J.P. Copies of the advertisments of the sale are on show in the Blue Bell pub/hotel just down the road from the hall e.g.
The gentleman in the photo is Harry Wilson Verelst who was squire of the Aston Hall estate in the late 19th/early 20th century. The line in the sale ad 'Eminently suitable for an Institution or School' was prophetic as by 1948 the hall had been bought by the West Riding County Council as a home for female psychiatric patients.
So, apart from being a very grand private residence, it has also served as a mental hospital, and is currently a luxury hotel and and entertainment venue, e.g. jazz nights. During the Euro '96 football tournament, the Portuguese national team stayed here as they played matches in Sheffield (8 miles west, and Nottingham 30 miles south down the M1).
The image above is now the hotel reception.
Rear of Aston Hall Hotel, circa 1920
The village information above is taken from The South & West Yorkshire Village Book, written by members of the South & West Yorkshire Federation of Women's Institutes and published by Countryside Books.