Peplow and Little Bolas


The name Peplow is probably derived from old English phyppel-hlaw which means ‘pebbly hill’ or ‘stony mound.’ This may indicate the presence of an ancient burial mound in the area, but if there was one, its location is now lost to antiquity.

At Domesday it was cited as Papelau and was held by Ralph de Mortimer for Earl Rodger de Montgomery, at which time it was part of Wrockwardine hundred. Before the Norman Conquest, Peplow was held as two manors (by Orgrim and Uluric). Ralph de Mortimer lost all of his manors, including Peplow, soon after Domesday, for his part in a rebellion against William I. Later, during the reign of Henry III, it became part of Hodnet estate.

The best known feature of Peplow is Peplow Hall, which was at the centre of village life for many centuries. The current hall dates from the 1700’s, but there was no doubt a smaller older property there for many years before. The proximity of Peplow Hall to the village of Ollerton, located to the east on the other side of the River Tern, meant that the hall was important in that village’s life too.

Research carried out in 2021 showed the long and close links that have existed between the hall and the various families owning land and property adjacent. You can view this ‘timeline’ HERE (soon).

Peplow Hall (and Estate) has had a number of owners over the years; and its size/prestige has ebbed and flowed with the times – and the varying fortunes of its owners. The family with the longest and perhaps most illustrious/best documented history is, arguably, the Staniers, who owned it from 1873 until the mid-1920s.

You can view the recent extensive/interesting Stanier history HERE; but in short the Stanier family goes back a long way, the name originally being spelt as Stonyer.

Immediately prior to establishing themselves at Peplow, the family’s rise to prominence can most easily be traced to the early/mid years of the industrial revolution, and in particular to their involvement in the fast growing iron and coal mining industries of the Stoke on Trent area.

It may have been the arrival of the Wellington to Market Drayton and Stoke Railway in the mid C19th that enabled Francis Stanier to move to Peplow in 1873; but whatever the motivation, once there he set about enlarging the hall, re-modelling the grounds (inc. building the lake) and also creating Ollerton Park on the eastern side of the River Tern. In doing so he established a classic British ‘country gentleman’s’ estate.

Upon his death in 1900, control of the estate was due to be passed to his oldest son, Frank Justice Stanier. However, he lived abroad and didn’t want to take on Peplow Hall; and seemingly neither did his son, Frank Adolphus Hood Stanier, who lived nearby at High Hatton Hall. As a result, Francis’s next oldest surviving son, Beville Stanier, moved in and managed the estate day to day – also adding further land of his own on the Ollerton side of the River Tern. In 1919, for reasons of inheritance and economics, Sir Beville (as he had become in 1917) moved to The Citadel at Weston under Redcastle, nr Hodnet, where he died in 1921.

Peplow Hall/Estate was put up for sale in 1921, but didn’t sell until broken up into various separate lots in 1923. Thereafter the trustees of Sir Beville’s estate retained his land on the Ollerton side of the River Tern until it was sold to the, then, owners of Peplow Hall in 1942.

In 1956 the family moved away from Shropshire, but retain a link to this area to the present day; still owning some land near The Citadel, including the famous Hawkstone Motocross circuit (see ) and also acting as one of the trustees for a charitable fund linked to Peplow Chapel.

The Hall has been altered several times, mainly in 1886 by Francis Stanier and also in the 1920’s.

The entrance to Grade II listed Peplow Hall, looking through the listed gates , gate pillars and flanking walls

The next best known building in Peplow is perhaps The Chapel of the Epiphany (‘Peplow Chapel’).

This was commissioned and paid for by the Stanier family when they owned Peplow Hall.  The corner stone was laid by Caroline Stanier in 1877, in the presence of the Bishop of Lichfield.  It is possible that the Chapel was built on much older foundations.  It was built as a cruciform structure of brick, in the early English style.

The Chapel remained part of the Stanier family’s property until the 1951, when it was passed to the Lichfield Diocese.

There are various memorials to the owners of Peplow Hall around the Chapel.  The East window is stained, as are the others. one is in memory of Captain Fisher and another William Stanier – who died and was buried at sea on his way home from the Boer War.

The Chapel was designed by the famous Victorian architect, Norman Shaw.  The unusual brick and timber design on the end and the side walls is known as “noggin”

The outstanding feature of the interior is the large mural of ‘The Epiphany’ from which the chapel takes its name.  This is painted on the side of the chancel, and was painted by Douglas Strachan, a pupil of Burne-Jones? It was commissioned by Beville Stanier in 1903, in memory of his father, the late Francis Stanier. Unfortunately, it now looks rather dark as, in 1962, the painting was restored and a coat of varnish was applied. We have been assured that if this now discoloured varnish was removed, the colours underneath would be as bright as they were in 1903.

The survey of 1851 states the occupations in the Peplow area included farmers, a corn miller, a shoe maker, and a maltster and butcher. Close to the chapel there was a school and residence for the school mistress.

Chapel of the Epiphany, Peplow: Jan 2021- Courtesy of Danni Cornish

During the second world war there was a very large airfield nearby known as ‘RAF Peplow’. The site was located just outside the parish, being roughly bounded by Ollerton, Childs Ercall and Eaton-upon-Tern. By 1945 it had space for 40 heavy bombers and three runways, the longest of which was 2000 metres long (2 km or approximately 1 mile). After the war the airfield was closed, but traces remain of some of its runways and hangers.

Peplow Mill was once a large and busy corn mill, with 20 or more lorries a day coming and going up to the 1960’s. At a later date a generator was put in place to provide electricity for the hall. In the 1990’s it was converted to a residence.

Peplow Station was the first station south of Hodnet on the Wellington to Nantwich line of the Great Western railway. The railway line closed to passengers on 9th September 1961 and goods services in 1964 – but was, unusually, not a victim of famous Beeching Report.

Little Bolas. The name Bolas is probably of Welsh origin from the word bola, meaning belly or swelling, and may have been inspired by the fact that the settlement is close to a small hill in otherwise flat country. Alternatively, a Bolas is a form of hunting device used by South American Indians. It is a length of rope with a stone or ball of metal at each end. When used, it is swung round the head by one hand and then hurled at an animal so as to entangle it by twisting round its legs. However, it seems unlikely that this is the source of the name, but this explanation seems a bit more interesting.

Little Bolas was a member of Peplow, and as such was part of Wrockwardine hundred in 1086. It was later annexed, with Peplow, to Hodnet and appears in the list of manors belonging to the hereditary seneschal of Montgomery.

According to the census of 1841, it was made up of two farms and nine houses and had 44 inhabitants. Today it is still a small group of houses and some scattered farmsteads.