Cheshire has many old and beautiful mansion houses but like the rest of the country has lost many.

Things changed, and the Landed Gentry found themselves running out of money.

In the early days, stately homes were built in the form of small moated castles to protect the inhabitants from wars and bandits.

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As time passed and the threat decreased, the houses were rebuilt or converted to provide more comfort. These vast estates provided work for the tenants and tenant farms, but there was a strict hierarchy of servants and masters.

The programme Downton Abbey is currently being repeated, and it is a brilliant example of life in a stately home in the early 1900s.

Mansions became expensive to repair as age took its toll, the government taxed the owners and introduced draconian death duties, money was short.

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Over the years land was sold off, furniture and fittings went to provide funds and when the end came as it usually did the house if lucky, was handed over to the National Trust or purchased as a nursing home, hospital, school or business premises etc.

Some were abandoned and demolished such as Leftwich Hall in 1820, Darnhall Hall and Marbury Hall in the 1950s. Some were lucky; their owners professionally managed the estates, saving them from this fate.

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It usually meant opening them to the public for viewing, weddings and as hotels, and Arley Hall was one such building.

The Arley Hall and estate have been in the Warburton family since the twelfth century, and the first house at Arley was built by Piers Warburton in 1469 when he moved his seat from Warburton near Warrington to Arley.

It was square-shaped and built-in wood having a moat around it. Over the years the structure deteriorated, and by 1845 the fourth baronet Sir Peter Warburton had the house encased in brick. In 1813 the title and estate were inherited by Roland Egerton-Warburton who was just aged eight years.

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When the child reached 21 years of age, he decided to rebuild the house completely. What he wanted was an Elizabethan house but with modern fittings. Similar to the current trend of new dwellings built in Georgian and other old styles today. George Latham of Nantwich was the architect, but they worked on the plans together calling them Queen Elizabethan.

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In the 20th century, the estate was inherited by Elizabeth Egerton-Warburton who married Desmond Flower 10th Viscount Ashbrook. The title and estate are now held by their son Michael Lowarch Warburton-Flower 11th Viscount Ashbrook and his wife Zoe, Lord and Lady Ashbrook.

The house and grounds are open to the public when allowed, and they have been used as film sets for such programmes as Peaky Blinders and Hollyoaks and used as a backdrop for the Antiques Roadshow, Songs of Praise, and others.

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Cillian Murphy (right) playing Tommy Shelby on set for Peaky Blinders at Arley Hall

The photo below shows the avenue to the gate bordered on either side by lime trees planted in 1851, giving it the name Lime Avenue.

The award-winning gardens, which include the walled kitchen garden, are, like the house designated as Grade II and date originally from the 18th and 19th century.

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