Blithfield is a small rural parish in East Staffordshire which can trace its history back to 1086 and the Domesday Book survey ordered by William the Conqueror. Then it comprised 13 households with seven villagers, one smallholder, four slaves and one priest. The 2001 census records 96 houses and a population of 225 with three main settlements, Admaston, Newton and Dapple Heath.
Why Blithfield? The first part comes from an alternative to blythe, the name of the river which flows into the reservoir, which comes from “blitha”, meaning gentle. The second part stems from the Old English word “feld”, meaning open or accessible land. Many residents believe that ‘gentle land’ is an apt description for the parish.
Blithfield Reservoir was opened by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in 1953 after six years’ construction. Before the reservoir was built the land consisted mostly of fields with small areas of woodland and was predominantly used by farmers for rearing animals and growing crops.
A bridge, now carrying the B5013 road, separates the water of the reservoir into two unequal parts.
Blithfield Hall, the ancestral home of the Bagot family, lies in a slight hollow, but on high ground between the valleys of the rivers Trent and Blythe.
The Hall originally appeared as a fortress surrounded by a moat. The Elizabethan south front with its tall chimneys is said to have been rebuilt by Richard Bagot and, until about the eighteenth century, a moat ran directly beneath the windows. A bridge leading to the open courtyard around which the house was built gave entrance to the front door of the castle, or great gateway, as it was then called.
Blithfield Parish Church of St Leonard dates from the thirteenth century and lies just west of Blithfield Hall. In the late 13th and early 14th century, four “bay arcades” were built. The base of the western tower and the windows were constructed in the 14th century. The upper part of the tower, with stained glass in the west window is thought to date back to 1525. The church contains tombs of the Bagot family, ancient stained glass windows and a floor paved in Minton tiles.
Admaston Village Hall was originally a school. In1856 a decision was made by the 3rd Lord Bagot to build a school as a memorial to his father and accordingly a fund was set up to which his friends, relatives and tenants were invited to contribute.
Inside, the most striking feature was and still is the splendid hammer beam roof. There was a very large arched window at each gable end and smaller windows along the back wall. During the 19th century there was no compulsory education and none of it was free. The families in Blithfield paid according to their income.
The school permanently closed in 1943, but for several years afterwards the building continued to be used for social events. Finally, in 1948, the 6th Lord Bagot offered it to the Parish to be used ‘for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Blithfield’.