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The Stanleys grew into an important family by their alliances with the leading families of Lancashire and Cheshire. Hooton was, in
the. reign of Richard I., in the possession of an ancient family named Hotone, and from them passed to Randle Walensis. In 1346 the right of the bailiwick of the Forest of Wirral and the
Manor of Storeton was proved by Sir William Stanley, and upon the disafforestation of Wirral in 1360 a grant of 20 marks per annum was made to his son as a compensation for loss of fees and
perquisites attached to that ancient office. This Sir William had two sons, the younger, Sir John Stanley, married Isabella, sole heiress of Sir Thomas Lathom, Knight, and upon his death settled at Lathom, in Lancashire, and became founder of the noble and distinguished house of Derby.
The elder son married Margery, only daughter of William de Hoton, who brought to him the estates of her ancient family. The Stanleys were able men, and greatly respected. Indeed, Sir Rowland Stanley, who died in 1613, was beloved by the whole countryside, and lived to be the oldest knight in England, for he did not die until
April 5, 1613, having lived to the great age of ninety-six years, and to see his son's son's son settled at Hooton.
Two of his sons are interesting one on account of his great bravery, and the other on account of his treachery. The younger, Edward Stanley (a natural son), having proceeded to the wars in the Low Countries for in those days natural sons got more kicks than halfpence was a very gallant lad, and the Rev. F. Sanders, M.A., the learned Vicar of Hoylake, has recently drawn attention to
the fact that one of his deeds of valour has been chronicled in the glowing pages of John Lothrop Motley, the American historian, in his famous book entitled a "History of the United Netherlands."
He writes :
" The great fortress which commanded the Velawe, and which was strong enough to have resisted Count Hohenlo on a former occasion for nearly a year, was the scene of much hard fighting. It was gained at last by the signal valour of Edward Stanley, lieutenant to Sir William. That officer, at the commencement of an assault upon a not very practicable breach, sprang at the long pike of a Spanish soldier who was endeavouring to thrust him from the wall, and seized it with both hands. The Spaniard struggled to
maintain his hold of the weapon, Stanley to wrest it from his grasp. A dozen other soldiers broke their pikes upon his cuirass, or shot at him with their muskets. Conspicuous by his dress, being all in yellow but his corslet, he was in full sight of Leicester and of five thousand men. The earth was so shifty and sandy that the soldiers
who were to follow him were not able to climb the wall. Still Stanley grasped his adversary's pike, but, suddenly changing his plan, he allowed the Spaniard to lift him from the ground. Then, assisting himself with his feet against the wall, he, much to the astonishment of the spectators, scrambled quite over the parapet and dashed
sword in hand amongst the defenders of the fort. Had he been endowed with a hundred lives it seemed impossible for him to escape death. But his followers, stimulated by his example, made
ladders for themselves of each other's shoulders, scrambled at last with great exertions over the broken wall, overpowered the garrison, and made themselves masters of the sconce. Leicester,
transported with enthusiasm for this noble deed of daring, knighted Edward Stanley upon the spot, besides presenting him next day with ^40 in gold, and an annuity of 100 marks sterling for
life. ' Since I was born, I did never see any man behave himself as he did,' said the Earl. I shall never forget it, if I live a thousand years, and he shall have a part of my living for it as long as I live.' '
It makes the blood course quickly in the veins, and one's breath to come and go as the account of the gallant action of this Wirral gentleman is read. It was a brave deed that did not pass unrequited, and it is nearly impossible to look on the park, in which this brave soldier must have ridden as a boy, without recalling his gallant bearing, and murmuring, " It must have been a noble mother that bore so brave a son."
But, alas! as we sit beneath the oak-trees there come to mind the shame and misdeeds of the elder son, who, too, was a distinguished soldier. Leicester appointed Sir William Stanley
Governor of Deventer, placing under his command more than a thousand troops. Leicester had seen a good deal of him, and trusted him implicitly, but his trust was betrayed shamefully, for within less than a month after his appointment he entered into negotiations to deliver the fortress into the hands of the Spaniards, and enlisted in the service of the King of Spain. The great Spanish Armada set sail for England, and was happily defeated by the
gallant Drake and his comrades, and, on learning of the defeat, Sir William retired into Spain and died abroad. His father, Sir Rowland Stanley, to show his detestation and abhorrence of his son's treacherous conduct, was particularly active against Spain, and when the news came of the Spanish Armada he contributed a hundred pounds to a fund for taking measures to repel it.
The old hall in which the Stanleys dwelt was a very interesting building, and a picture of it is reproduced here. Ormerod had it copied from the original painting in the possession of Sir T. S. M. Stanley, Bart., and describes it as " A very large quadrangular timber building, one of the rooms of which was decorated with rude paintings of the Earls of Chester executed on the wainscot. One side was occupied by a strong tower, embattled and machicolated, from which rose a slender turret of extraordinary height. It was erected by Sir William Stanley, who had for this purpose a licence enrolled in the exchequer of Chester, and dated 10 Aug. [3 not] 2 Henry VII." It was taken down in 1778, and the present mansion built from a design of Samuel Wyatt, from stone dug from Storeton quarry, stands within a park of one thousand acres.
At last there came a Sir William Stanley, who entered into possession of the splendid and care- fully kept estates of his ancestors, and a few short years of extravagant living led to the sale of Hooton. He entertained Napoleon III., who did not forget his kindnesses when misfortunes pressed heavily upon Sir William, who was reduced to sad circumstances by his liberality and
gambling proclivities. An old rabbit-catcher, who dwelt on the estate many years ago, said that he had seen twelve coaches-and-four on a single day pass out of the Hooton Park gates taking Sir William's guests to the Chester races.
So at last the dwelling-place of the Stanleys, with all their fair demesne, came into the market and passed away with the Wirral Stanleys for ever.
" If we wish to do good to men, we must pity and not despise them," says Amiel, and whenever the writer of these lines looks over the park, and sees now a former dwelling of a historic family turned into a club, he exclaims, Oh ! the pity of it, the pity of it.
The Stanley estates were purchased by Richard Christopher Naylor, a successful banker, and for- merly a partner in the famous banking house of Leyland & Bullins, of King Street, Liverpool, who has long ceased to dwell there, although he made considerable additions to the original building. The park contains some good timber, and in the spring-time the large snowdrops peep
through every glade, and there is a beautiful cedar- tree on the lawn at the west front, which is worthy of notice.