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History of Acton Park

The Jeffreys family lived at Acton Hall in the 17th century. Acton Park was the chief house of Wrexham.

The most famous member of the family being the notorious Hanging Judge Jeffreys. The house was rebuilt between 1687- 1695 and enlarged in 1786-7. The park was created in the 1790s.

The house suffered from a variety of uses during the early 20th century. William Aston tried to find a new use for it after the First World War. The house was demolished in 1954. Only the gateway and lodges now remain. The local "civic amenity site" now occupies the land where the house once stood.

Acton Park in its heyday - © and Courtesy of Wrexham Archives

The Jeffreys, a Welsh family, lived at Acton Hall in the 17th century. The family motto was 'Pob dawn o Dduw' - Every gift from God.

Judge Jeffreys

George Jeffreys was born in 1647 at Acton. He went to school in Shrewsbury and later in London. He then trained in law where he spent much time drinking and networking. The latter would serve him well.

Cartoon of Judge Jeffreys

He led an eventful life and made many enemies. In 1680 he became Chief Justice of Chester, despite 'being the worst that ever disgraced the bench.' Charles II damned Jeffreys' character

He has no learning, no sense, no manners and has more impudence than ten street walkers.

Yet Charles II made him Lord Chief Justice of all England in 1683. Two years later, Jeffreys ensured his name would go down in history. He presided over the Bloody Assizes in 1685. Monmouth and his Protestant supporters had rebelled against James II and had lost. Jeffreys presided over the trials of the captured rebels. Nearly 300 were executed and hundreds shipped off as slaves to the West Indies. In folk history, Jeffreys revelled in his power and is said to have extorted money from the families of the accused as they asked for mercy.

Jeffreys had nailed his colours to the mast of James II. That was a big mistake. In 1688 William of Orange and his allies in England staged a coup and toppled James from the throne. Jeffreys tried to flee abroad disguised as a sailor. He was caught in a pub with 35,000 guineas and a load of silver ware. Barely surviving the mob, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and died there in 1689. His enemies wrote the history books and Jeffreys' reputation was ruined for ever more.

Sir Griffith Jeffreys rebuilt the family home between 1687 - 1695. His wife Dame Dorothy set up a charity in her will which helped found many of the first schools in Wrexham. After the Jeffreys the house belonged to Philip Egerton and then Ellis Yonge before being purchased by Sir Foster Cunliffe for £27,000.

Acton Park, 1796 - © and Courtesy of Wrexham Archives

Sir Foster repaired the property and added a new wing. The house at this time was redbrick with stone quoins. In the 1790s Sir Foster created a landscaped park with garden and lake, all enclosed inside a boundary wall. In 1820 he created a new entrance for the house on Chester Road with a neo-classical gateway.

Acton Hall, 1829 - © and Courtesy of Wrexham Archives

Later generations did little to improve the property. The 4th Baronet stuccoed the walls of the house, while the 5th Baronet faced it with stone in such a way that the house seemed to be of three different styles - none matching the other.

Acton Hall - before the decline - © and Courtesy of Wrexham Archives

In 1917 Acton Park was bought by Sir Bernard Oppenheimer. The Denbighshire Hussars were still billeted in the house and grounds. Oppenheimer opened a diamond cutting training school and workshop in the grounds of Acton Park. The scheme was designed to ensure jobs for ex-servicemen. It was the 'Homes Fit For Heroes' ethos in action, but Sir Bernard's untimely death in 1921 led to the workshop closing.

Nine Acre Field and sixty acres by Rhosnesni Lane were bought by the Borough Council. Patrick Abercrombie was commissioned to design a quality housing scheme for the sixty acres. Building started in 1921. The design of Abercrombie survives to this day. The rest of the estate was turned into small holdings for ex-soldiers. There were seven market garden and four dairy holdings.

William Aston purchased the house and grounds on the death of Sir Bernard. His initial plan to turn the hall into a technical school never took off. Instead the hall became a showroom and store for Aston's furniture company. The grounds were opened to the public.

Acton Hall Publicity Booklet, 1920's - © and Courtesy of Wrexham Archives

Acton Hall - public gardens - © and Courtesy of Wrexham Archives

In 1939 the War Office requisitioned Acton Park. Nissen huts were erected in the ground for the soldiers. The officers were billeted in the house. The Lancashire Fusiliers, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the South Wales Borderers and the Gurkhas were just a few of the regiments who stayed at Acton during the Second World War.

In 1943 the 33rd Signals Construction Battalion and 400th Armoured Field Artillery Battalion were billeted at Acton Park. Wrexham was host to men from Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Indiana. Eagles Meadow became their vehicle store, the Butter Market their canteen, Acton School Hall the venue for their dances and chewing gum was sold at the US Army store in Garden Village. The US Army was still segregated. Black soldiers were billeted at 'The Studio' by the junction of Chester Road and Grove Road.

The house just survived the US Army, but in a very poor state. The north wing was demolished just after the war. People plundered the park for firewood in the tough years of rationing in 1945-47. By 1954 the house was an eye sore. Alderman Hampson campaigned for the house to be saved as the town's museum. He failed and the demolition team set to work in August 1954.

Nothing now remains of the house. A new housing development along Herbert Jennings Avenue was built over much of the park, while the remainder was saved as a green space for the people of Wrexham.