Notable Visitors

Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis (1883 –1978). 

Williams-Ellis was a fashionable architect in the inter-war years, who wrote and broadcast extensively on architecture, design and the preservation of the rural landscape. He is best known now for the Italianate village Portmeirion in north-west Wales, setting for the famous TV series 'The Prisoner'.

In 1934 he designed Home Farm in Aston Street (now Manor Farm) for the Aston Manor estate owned by Francis Cross. He was a friend and professional colleague of Patrick Abercrombie – see Patrick’s entry under Famous Residents - who shared similar concerns for the rural environment.

In 1928 he had written England and the Octopus - an outcry at the urbanization of the countryside and loss of village. It prompted a group of young female activists to form the Ferguson's Gang, which between 1927 and 1946 raised huge sums to protect and preserve important but lesser-known rural properties and landscapes that could otherwise have been destroyed.

In 1937 he published Britain and the Beast, a collection of essays by various authors on the preservation of rural amenities - one of them John Maynard Keynes, a significant British economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments in the post-war years. 

In 1958 Williams-Ellis was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire  'for public services', and was knighted in 1972 for 'services to the preservation of the environment and to architecture'.  At the time, he was the oldest person ever to be knighted.

Richard Stanley Francis, CBE FRSL (1920 –2010).

Dick Francis, British crime writer and former steeplechase jockey, who for nearly 30 years lived in Blewbury, and was part of the Astons wider equestrian community. His wife Mary was good friends with Barbara Cundell, wife of Frank Cundell, whose stables were based at Blewburton Hall (see separate entry under Residents). 

In his career as a full-time jump-jockey Dick Francis won over 350 races and was at one time champion jockey of the British National Hunt. From 1953 to 1957 he was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. His best remembered moment as a jockey came while riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, in the 1956 Grand National, when the horse inexplicably fell when close to winning the race. Francis considered losing that race his greatest regret and called it "a disaster of massive proportions".

When he retired from the turf he became a journalist and novelist. The British Crime Writers Association awarded him its Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. All his novels deal with crime in the horse-racing world, and more than forty of them became international best-sellers, with his first novel, Dead Cert, being adapted as a film, and another novel being adapted for television, starring Ian McShane.

More to Come (work in progress):