George Lees-Milne bought Wickhamford Manor from the Trustees of the Estate of John Pickup Lord in 1906. His father, James Henry Lees-Milne (1847-1908) had an inheritance from the Will of a relative, Henry Milne, in 1890, on condition he changed his surname from ‘Lees’ to ‘Lees-Milne’.
The Lees family had benefited from links to the Milne and Crompton families in their home county of Lancashire. The Cromptons of Crompton Hall, Oldham, since the 13th century were owners of A & A Crompton mill, Oldham in the 19th century. The Milnes were of Park House and the Lees had lived at Clarksfield Hall, near Oldham, since the time of James I.
Lees family background
John Lees (1720-1766) had a son, James Lees (1759-1828). His son was Joseph Lees (1819-1890).
At the 1861 census, Joseph Lees was the ‘Proprietor of a Coalmine’, coal having been found under his property. His wife Sarah Ann (nee Milne) was a Magistrate, probably an unusual occupation for a woman at that time. They were living at Clarksfield Hall, Oldham with four children and six servants. One son was the thirteen-year-old, James Henry Lees, mentioned above. James was living with his maternal grandmother, Alice Milne, at Crompton Hall for the 1871 census, when he was described as a ‘Manager’.
By the time of the 1881 census, he had married Mary Emma Nesbitt and they had two children, Alec Milne Lees (3) and George Crompton Lees (11 months old). They employed four servants at their home, Park House, Crompton, Oldham. James Henry Lees was described as a ‘Cotton Spinner employing 752 hands’. The two sons had been given the second names ‘Milne’ and ‘Crompton’ as they were due to inherit money from those two branches of their extended family in due course. The family were still at the same residence in 1891, but by 1902 had moved to Ribbesford House near Bewdley, Worcestershire. In that year, James and his two sons were on the Electoral Register there, by then with the extended surname ‘Lees-Milne’.
James Lees-Milne was a member of the Conservative Party in Oldham and was instrumental in getting Winston Churchill adopted by the party to stand in the bye-election of 1899, which he won and saw him first enter Parliament. James Lees-Milne died of meningitis in 1908 and was buried in Ribbesford Church.
Most of the information on the Lees ancestry, above, has been sourced from James Lees-Milne: The Life by Michael Bloch (John Murray, 2009).
George Crompton Lees-Milne married Helen Christina Bailey in 1904 and, in 1906, bought Wickhamford Manor, with land and cottages in the village, at a cost of £2,300. They had three children, Audrey in 1905, George James Henry (‘Jim’) in 1908 and Richard Crompton in 1910.
A photographic record of the Lees-Milne family’s life at the Manor can be found at LEES-MILNE Family - Pictorial record of the Lees-Milne Family and Staff at Wickhamford Manor.
At the time of his obtaining the Manor, George Lees-Milne also purchased Corner Cottage (then two dwellings) and a pair of cottages in Manor Road and one on Pitchers Hill. He also rented, from the Trustees of J. P. Lord, Elm Farm, the houses now known as Whtyebury and Oakenshore, the four cottages that he would later buy and demolish in order to build Hodysplace. He also bought Robin Cottage in the 1930s and gave it a complete makeover. The two houses near the village hall, Leasowe and Challacot were also redesigned and used for staff employed at the Manor. At the Manor itself, he added another wing to the building. Towards the end of his life he arranged for the re-erection of the gallery in the Church, but it was only completed at the time of his death. During his time in Wickhamford he considerably altered the appearance of the main street, Manor Road, due to his interest in the Arts and Craft movement.
Although he had served in the Cheshire Yeomanry, 1901-1905, he could not serve in the Great War, as he had lost an eye due to a riding accident. He played his part in the War by purchasing hay for horse feed for the War Office. During the Second World War he was a Captain in the Home Guard, commanding the Broadway Company of the 4th Worcestershire (Evesham) Battalion.
Before his death, in 1949, he had moved to the adjacent property, ‘Hodys Place’, selling the Manor to members of the Leeson family in 1947. Helen Lees-Milne later married Henry Taylor Horsfield and she died in 1962.