A £250,000 facelift of a long-established restaurant has ‘reunited’ two blue-blooded West Midland families who were reportedly keen rivals for centuries.
The Wyatts and the Manleys, both with historic lineages in the region, are said to have harboured a ‘significant rivalry’ centred on the picturesque village of Weeford, near Lichfield.
The clash of dynasties which gave the world the likes of former Warwickshire and England cricketer Bob Wyatt, chairman of the Tote and political fixer Woodrow Wyatt and Admiral Isaac Manley, survivor of Captain Cook’s first round the world voyage, is highlighted in the local church, according to experts from the area.
All memorials and windows dedicated to members of the Wyatt family are situated on the south wall, while those for the Manleys are on the north wall. It is claimed that family members and staff always insisted that they kept to their own side of the church when attending services.
But the rival Staffordshire clans have now been brought together at The School House restaurant at Weeford, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, and now boasts Manley’s Brasserie, among other facilities.
The culinary tribute to the Manley family is part of a restaurant complex which also includes Wyatt’s Pavilion, which is used for a variety of functions, including weddings and family gatherings.
Proprietor and chef Nigel Dobson, whose parents Ted and Valerie bought the Old School House and turned it into a restaurant in early 1984, said: “Apparently the Manleys and the Wyatts never got on. Now we have got the Wyatt Pavilion and the Manley Brasserie.
“It was staring us in the face. The Wyatt Pavilion has been here for seven years. Now we have linked the two families together. Although Weeford is such a small place, there is a lot of history here.
“It’s been a long process, nearly 30 years in the planning, since my family bought what was the Old School House, which at the time was very rundown.
“Following a quarter of a century of trading as the Old School House Restaurant and our popular Wyatt Pavlion wedding and functions suite, we thought it time for a change. So we asked customers to help us with a new name, and were inundated with over 400 suggestions and finally landed on Manley’s Brasserie.”
He added: “The business has been a success down the years, and we are coming up to 30 years next year.
“It is proper food, not microwave. I get the fish from Birmingham market, and the food is locally sourced.
“It has been quite difficult with the recession – people’s habits have changed and business lunches have died, for example. We have had a lot of younger clientele since the refit. It had been open for 28 years and was looking a bit tired.
“We are one of the longest established restaurants in the West Midands. We have been here for nearly 30 years and it’s still in the family. We are quite proud of that – it’s an achievement.”
Records show there are three notable families among those associated with St Mary’s Weeford, the Swinfens, the Manleys and the Wyatts.
There were Wyatts in Weeford at least as early as 1562 with a number gaining reputations as noted architects.
Edward Wyatt was heavily involved in major alterations to the previous church building and Benjamin Dean Wyatt (1775-1852) built the theatre Royal Drury Lane and was also Surveyor at Westminister Abbey.
However, it was Benjamin’s father, James (1746—1813), born half a mile away at Blackbrook Farmhouse, who was the most acclaimed and influential architect of his age. His first major building in the UK, the Pantheon in Oxford Street, was described by Horace Walpole as “the most beautiful edifice in England.” In 1792 he was appointed surveyor-general, a post which effectively made him the most prominent architect in the country.
The first of the Manleys to live in Weeford was John Shaw Manley who built the imposing Manley Hall on land he had inherited from his father Admiral Isaac George Manley, the last survivor of Captain Cook’s first round the world voyage in 1833.
The house was built on a 1,200-acre estate for John Shawe Manley, who in 1843 was High Sheriff of Staffordshire.
John Shaw Manley was later to become High Sheriff of Staffordshire.
There is a plaque in the chancel to his son William Campbell Manley who was secretary of Legation at Copenhagen in the mid 19th century. A number of other plaques and windows are also dedicated to members of the Manley family.
There are also tablets in the Nave in memory of John Wyatt (1735 –1797), the inventor of a spinning machine used before Arkwright’s Spinning Jenny.
More recent members of the Wyatt family remembered in St Mary’s Church are Warwickshire, Worcestershire and England cricketer Bob Wyatt (1901-1995) and politician, journalist and Chairman of the Tote, Woodrow Wyatt, Lord Wyatt of Weeford (1918-1997) who is also buried in the churchyard.