A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9, Burton-Upon-Trent. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2003.
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In 942 King Edmund granted an estate at Branston to Wulfsige the Black, possibly an ancestor of Wulfric Spot, the founder of Burton abbey. (fn. 11) Branston seems to have been one of the estates which the abbey lost in the early 11th century, and in 1066 it was held by Godgifu (Godiva), the widow of Leofric, earl of Mercia. It was presumably regranted to the abbey by the Crown after the earldom was abolished c. 1070, and was certainly held by the abbey in 1086, when it was assessed for tax on 1 1/2 hide. (fn. 12) The same assessment was recorded in the early 12th century for 'the land of the men' held 'in defence', meaning land which was taxable by the Crown. (fn. 13)
Branston became a tithing in Burton manor, and after the dissolution of the abbey and then of Burton college it passed as part of that manor to the Paget family. (fn. 14) The most distinctive feature of the township was Sinai park, which was created in the medieval period for social use by the monks. (fn. 15)
What was called 'the park of Shobnall' in the early 14th century (fn. 16) was evidently associated with the abbey's grange at Shobnall in Burton Extra, but it later became attached to a house in Branston from which Sinai park takes its name. (fn. 17) Still called Shobnall park in 1410, it was known as 'Seyne' park by 1529, when it was surrounded by a fence. (fn. 18) The fence had probably been erected when the park was enlarged in the late 15th century by the inclusion of part of Rough hay and other common land on its west side. As compensation for the loss of pasture rights, annual payments of 5s. were awarded in 1500 to the churchwardens of Barton-under-Needwood and of Rolleston. (fn. 1) The park covered 486 a. in the late 1750s. (fn. 2)
The parkland was probably used by the abbots as a hunting ground in the Middle Ages, and in 1325 there was a parker in Burton manor named William, possibly the man of the same name who was the warden of the woodland called Outwood, in Horninglow. (fn. 3) The warden of the park in 1532 was a gentleman named John Norton, whose office was presumably honorific. Possibly by 1567 and certainly by 1572, however, there was a salaried warden, William Crisp, who by 1585 was also responsible for Outwood. (fn. 4) There was still a park keeper in 1668. (fn. 5) His main responsibility was presumably for the deer which were kept in the park, but after their removal in the early 1770s, the office was discontinued and a gamekeeper was appointed for the whole of Burton manor. (fn. 6)
Deer are first recorded in the park in 1532, and in 1585 there was grazing for 400 deer; (fn. 7) bucks killed in the summer of 1584 included a brace shot by the teenage Robert Devereux, earl of Essex. (fn. 8) Deer may also have been grazed on grassland called the Lawns, which lay on lower ground on the east side of the park; in the later 1630s horses belonging to Lord Paget were being exercised there. (fn. 9) When the park was let in 1668, the lessee was required to feed the deer during the winter and to keep the number up to 200. The herd numbered 240 in 1724. (fn. 10) In 1770 and 1771 all the deer were moved from Sinai park to the Pagets' principal Staffordshire estate at Beaudesert, in Longdon. (fn. 11a) When the earl of Uxbridge came to Sinai in 1744 and 1757 it was possibly only to shoot game birds: a pheasant house was recorded in 1746. (fn. 12a)
The £8 rent which the abbey received for the park at the Dissolution was for its herbage and pannage. (fn. 13a) The rent was increased to £20 in 1549, and was £72 in the late 1630s. (fn. 14a) In 1637 Lord Paget insisted that only deer and sheep were to be allowed in the park, and he ordered the purchase of 300 Irish sheep to be fattened up at Sinai and either sold or eaten at Beaudesert. The lessee in 1668, however, was forbidden to pasture sheep. (fn. 15a)
The park contained 60 a. of poor-quality timber in 1546. (fn. 16a) By the early 18th century there were over 2,000 trees, and large-scale felling took place in 1744 and again in 1771. (fn. 17a) The parkland was then converted to arable use.
Sinai Park House
In the early 14th century a house standing on a moated site (in loco illo circumfossato) in Sinai park was used by monks when they had their blood let, a practice thought in the Middle Ages as necessary to promote health. (fn. 1a) When the bishop gave permission for the eucharist to be celebrated in an oratory there in 1410, the house was called the 'manor of Seyne', a French word meaning blood. (fn. 2a) It was described as a guest-house (sinodum) in 1442. (fn. 3a)
The house may have been tenanted in the early 16th century, when the monks complained that they no longer had their customary recreation called 'le seygnes'. (fn. 4a) The abbey certainly let what was called the 'great lodge' in 1537, together with the park, to William Butt of London for 50 years. Butt sold the lease in 1545 to Burton college, which later the same year let the estate to John Blount of Burton. (fn. 5a) Blount evidently surrendered the lease in 1546, when the park was in the hands of the new lord of the manor, Sir William Paget. In 1549 it was let to John Tailor (d. 1568). (fn. 6a) Soon after the Paget family regained Burton manor in 1597, the park was evidently let to a Mr. Rodway, and Stephen Rodway, possibly the same man or his son, was living there in 1627. (fn. 7a) The house was called 'Seney Hall' in 1649, when it was let with the park to Robert Mellor of Derby, a Parliamentarian officer (d. 1656). (fn. 8a)
In 1668 Lord Paget let what was then called 'Seaney Lodge' and the park to Simon Smith, the park keeper. Smith seems not to have lived there, as he was allowed to sublet the house and two stables to a Mr. Manwaringe, possibly Edward Mainwaring who was living at Yoxall in 1665 and succeeded to his father's estate at Whitmore in 1675. (fn. 9a) By 1709 the house, then called 'Seaney Park', was occupied by John Hixon, who acted as Lord Paget's bailiff from 1701. (fn. 10a) Hixon, who was described as a keeper at his death in 1715, was succeeded at Sinai by his son Thomas (d. 1738), who also acted as bailiff. (fn. 11b) By 1741 the house was occupied by Thomas's successor, William Wyatt, (fn. 12b) who was presumably required to move out temporarily when his master, by then earl of Uxbridge, came to Sinai to hunt, as in 1744 and 1757. (fn. 13b) Wyatt resigned in 1771 because of ill-health and died at Sinai in 1772. (fn. 14b) His son Samuel succeeded him in office, but was ordered in 1774 to leave the house, evidently because Lord Paget wanted it for a new bailiff, William Priest, who occupied both 'Seaney Park House' and the Manor House in Burton in 1777. (fn. 15b)
By 1790 the house was occupied by Joseph Smith, possibly the wharfinger and timber merchant of that name who died at Burton in 1796. (fn. 16b) By that date the name was usually given as Sinai, a spelling apparently first coined in 1622 by the Leicestershire antiquary William Burton, who thought that the park was so called because of its resemblance to the Biblical wilderness of that name. (fn. 17b) That spelling may have been favoured by the owner: when Lord Paget was staying at the house in 1774 Samuel Wyatt addressed a letter to him at 'Sinai Park', but when living there himself Wyatt used the old spelling 'Seany'. (fn. 18a)
The occupier in 1818 was Charles Perks, a Burton timber merchant. He died at Sinai in 1847, as did his son William in 1848 and his widow Ann in 1851. (fn. 19) By 1871 the occupier was George Capewell, who farmed the land for the marquess of Anglesey and was still living at Sinai in the late 1880s. (fn. 20)
The house and 193 a. of farmland and 38 a. of woodland were sold by the marquess of Anglesey to Burton Co-operative Society in 1918, (fn. 21) and a modern farmhouse was built on the approach road. In the 1930s the farm was owned by Mr. Frank Brooks, who in 1988 sold the derelict Sinai Park House and 2 1/2 a. to a Derby businessman, Rodney Butcher. Mr. Butcher sold the house in 1994 to Kate Newton and David Mills, who continued a programme of restoration. Mr. Brooks still farmed the surrounding land in 1999. (fn. 22)
The Building The present Sinai Park House, which is partly derelict, stands on a moated site and is a large timber-framed structure, U-shaped and facing east. Of two storeys with attics and jettied on almost all sides, the house had large external stacks with polygonal brick chimneys on the north, west, and south walls. (fn. 23)
A fragment of wall which survives in the cellar of the north wing apparently belonged to a stone building of the 13th or early 14th century. (fn. 1b) The earliest standing part of the house, however, is the east end of the north wing, whose timbers have been dated c. 1494-1534. (fn. 2b) The wing in that period was of two storeys, apparently jettied on the north and east sides, and had no chimneys. At ground floor level there was a singlebayed chamber at the east end and a larger chamber of two or more bays at the west end. The upper floor, which was open to the roof, comprised at least two single-bayed chambers, the westernmost having a doorway into a room which was removed when the west end was rebuilt in the early 17th century. (fn. 3b) Renaissance-style paintings of birds and foliage which survive on the plaster wall in the easternmost groundfloor room are probably contemporary with the wing's construction.
There may have been a south wing in the earlier 16th century, but if there was it was completely demolished and an entirely new wing built in 1573, largely of reused timber. (fn. 4b) A service wing, it was jettied and had upper chambers approached by a stair in a protruding turret at the south-east corner. A jettied, twin-gabled extension was added to the centre of the south side of the wing in the late 17th century, when the south-east stair turret may also have been altered.
The central hall range associated with the two wings was originally sited slightly to the east of the present range, which dates from a rebuilding of 1606: Lord Paget then gave the tenant £10 towards building a 'new lodge' at Sinai. (fn. 5b) The position of service doors in the south wing relate to the former range. As rebuilt, the range was jettied, had cross-mullioned windows, and a two-storeyed porch, which survives in the centre of the east façade. Internally there was a cross-passage (without external doors) at the south end of the range and a protruding stair turret in the centre of the west side; the upper floor seems to have been a great chamber. The west end of the north wing was also rebuilt to match the new central range, and doors at the north-east corner of the range provided access to both the old and the new parts of that wing. The central range was reroofed in the mid 17th century, and further renovation took place in the late 17th or early 18th century, (fn. 6b) when the north end was raised and the stair turret was altered.
Further remodelling of the central range took place c. 1750, (fn. 7b) when a sitting room with a curved end was created on the ground floor and some sash windows installed. The stair turret in the south wing was apparently enlarged in brick about the same date and a new staircase was fitted. By the late 1750s there were also buildings on the north side of the north wing, (fn. 8b) subsequently demolished but associated with cellars which partly remain. Divided into cottages in the late 19th century, (fn. 9b) the house later became derelict but the north wing was restored in the 1990s.
The medieval moat may have been L-shaped, restricted to the north and west sides of the house. Those arms were no longer filled with water after the 16th century, but complementary east and south arms were added, probably in the 17th or 18th century. There was a wooden bridge on the west side in the medieval period. The surviving single-arch brick bridge on the east side dates probably from the mid 18th century. (fn. 10b)