History of Eagle House

Eagle House has a rich and varied history dating back as far as 1810 and we are proud to be its current custodians.

The world was a very different place when Eagle House was built. The first photograph had not yet been taken, we were still amid the Napoleonic wars, large parts of the Americas were still governed by Spain and the U.S only consisted of 18 states.


Humble Beginnings

Construction of Eagle House began in 1810 after permission for its construction was given by James Cornwallis, then Bishop of Lichfield. It was built using construction materials from the demolished local Town Hall. Its purpose was to replace the old Eccleshall Poor House which had fallen into disrepair and was in such a terrible state that the local Vicar called it “a disgrace to any civilized country”! As many poor houses were, it was built away from the center of town, surrounded by countryside.

The first paupers moved into Eccleshall’s new Poor House in 1817.

The building offered a safety net for residents like Ann Groom who was abandoned by her husband, a man described as an ‘incorrigible rogue’. Having no local relatives to fall back on, Ann was left with no option but for her and their three children to go to the poor house.

In 1838, 46-year-old local Mary Emery brought her grandchild, one-year-old Sarah, to the house. Sarah was born out of marriage and her natural father had no legal obligation (no affiliation order) to care for her.  Mary, already having 4 children at home to look after, therefore turned to the state to help and little Sarah Emery faced a childhood in the Poor house. Read more about Sarah in our Blog post.

It was the last resort for older residents too. 74-year-old Ann Cheadle was taken ill and could no longer work. With no relations to lend help, the poor house became her last option.


Dr Christopher Greatrex

The reforms of The Poor Law meant that many of the nation’s Work Houses merged and by 1840, all Eagle House’s residents had been transferred to the workhouse in Stone. This led to the sale of Eagle House to Eccleshall’s surgeon, Dr. Christopher Greatrex, who had moved from Birmingham and had a practice on the Stone Road in the town. He served the area for over sixty years, administering to both private and poor patients until he died in 1880.

Find our more about Dr. Christopher Greatrex in our blog post

Image courtesy of William Salt Library.


Sale By Auction

Dr. Greatrex put Eagle House up for sale in 1853 and the poster of sale can be seen on arrival at the house in the hall.  It describes a plot much larger than remains today, with grounds including shrubberies, a large kitchen garden and fruit trees. The auction advertisement notes the ‘commanding views’ of the beautiful scenery, that can be seen from the house. We are lucky that these breathtaking vistas of the surrounding countryside remain today, so we can appreciate a part of what has attracted buyers and visitors to the house over the centuries.

As is common with large country houses, over the years, various pockets of land surrounding the house have been sold off by previous owners and used to build new homes. The house is now left with around a third of an acre of grounds to the rear, containing an ancient Copper Beech tree which must have witnessed much of the history of the house and is considered a local landmark.



Girls’ Boarding School

Following the purchase of Eagle House from Dr. Greatrex the building was used as a Girls’ Boarding School.  There were many private boarding schools in Eccleshall at the time, contributing to the prosperity of the Town. The area was popular for the better off to send their children and students came from all over the nation. Eccleshall was probably seen as a safe and healthy place, away from the vices of the cities and the railway but, as a coaching centre, easily accessible by good roads. The education the establishments provided may have been more about turning out polite and marriageable young ladies rather than that of an academic persuasion and the educators may have had limited educational credentials themselves.

The owner of the Eagle House Ladies’ School was Mrs. Sarah Tunnicliff, and then latterly her four daughters. Many of the schools were run by enterprising local women, providing a valuable form of employment for them at the time.

Sarah’s school was the longest-running in Eccleshall, having moved from the centre of town to Eagle House, where it greatly expanded the number of pupils on its register. The 1851 census shows the school had 12 children, ages 6 to 17 and after the move to Eagle House, its numbers increase to over 20. The school survived until at least 1894.

Find our more about Sarah Tunnicliff in our blog post


Image of Eagle House from the sky in 1930

20th Century History

Following the closure of the Girls’ School, Eagle House appears to have been in private ownership for the rest of the 20th century.  A George VI post box was added to its outer wall at some point during his reign and it is still in use today.

The town slowly grew up around the building and it is now well known to the locals. In the top right corner of this image, Eagle House appears as it was in 1930.

In our Blog post we chat with Mary about here life at Eagle House in the mid 20th Century.


Grade II listing

On 25th April 1980 Eagle House was listed under the Planning Act 1990 for its special architectural or historic interest.  The building was given a Grade II listing due to its striking external appearance and original windows and shutters.


Bed and Breakfast

In 2017, Eagle House became a successful Bed and Breakfast.  The property was purchased in 2009 by a local Ecclian who oversaw its complete refurbishment into the amazing place you see today. See the before and after pictures in our blog post.

We bought the property in 2021 and continue to offer luxury accommodation as well as using it as our family home.  Eagle House may have had a humble beginning, but we like to think that we are continuing its long history of serving people and welcoming those who need a place to stay.

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