Former Rufford Abbey resident returns to the Nottinghamshire estate

Peter Titlow at Rufford Abbey.
Peter Titlow at Rufford Abbey.

The son of a former Rufford Abbey butler, who was brought up on the estate, made a return to the grounds today - almost 75 years after he left.

86-year-old Peter Titlow returned to the abbey this afternoon (22nd July) for the first time since he was a teenager, and was shocked to see how much it had changed.

William Titlow (left) and colleagues at Rufford Abbey in the earlu 1920s. Credit: Notts County Council

William Titlow (left) and colleagues at Rufford Abbey in the earlu 1920s. Credit: Notts County Council

He and his family lived on the estate because his father, William Titlow, was a butler for the Savile family, who owned the estate.

Peter remembers playing cricket on the grounds and being able to play and roam free on what used to be 18,000 acres of land.

When the Savile family left in 1938, most of the land was sold off and the family moved to West Yorkshire.

And now only 150 acres remain open as part of the grounds, which belong to Nottinghamshire County Council.

Peter said: “It’s a mixture of feelings because it’s as if I have come back to somewhere totally different.

“I remember that we could run and play for miles and see nobody.”

“It’s a bit of a disappointment in some ways to see that it has fallen but then great to see how it has been looked after by the council now.”

Peter, who now lives in Worsley, near Manchester, was born in Blackwalk Cottage in the grounds of the abbey, were the Titlow family lived,

He was christened in the chapel there and Lady Savile, who was his godmother, kept in touch with the family after they sold the land

Peter’s daughter, Elaine Ashton (56), who is also from Worsley, had the idea to bring her father back after researching her granddfather’s background.

She said: “I knew that my granddad was a butler here and watching Downton Abbey made me curious to learn more about it all.

“My dad had loads of stories about this place because they could more or less do what they wanted.

“What a childhood that must have been. I’m very envious.”

The family were given a tour of the abbey and also had chance to look through old photographs and memorabilia from the old estate.

Linda Hardy, visitors services manager at the county council, who gave them the tour, described the experience as “surreal”.

She said: “To actually talk to somebody who was here in those days is very exciting. And it has been wonderful to meet them today.

“It has brought the place to life a bit more now that we have met them.

“It’s obviously very different these days. What’s here today is very lovely but it’s only a fragment of what it used to be.”

Elaine added: “It’s lovely that people can still come and look around here and be able to enjoy it.

“You can just imagine it how it used to be.”

Councillor John Knight, committee chairman for culture at Notts County Council said: “We were delighted to welcome Peter Titlow and his family back to Rufford Abbey where he spent his early years.

“We are very pleased that ancestral tourism is becoming increasingly popular at Rufford Abbey Country Park, as the place has such a fascinating history. There has been huge interest in this period of history with the TV series Downton Abbey and our series of walks around the estate with storytellers dressed in Edwardian costume talking about the life of the housekeeper and Rufford in those times are always popular.”

For more information about Rufford Abbey today, and it’s history, visit:

www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk.