A few comments from previous guests:
‘One of the most beautiful houses I have stayed in.’
‘I feel this weekend will prove to be a turning point . . .’
‘Beautiful venue and wonderful food.’
The house was once owned by William Provis (chief engineer to Thomas Telford) and parts of it date to pre-1800.The name ‘The Grange’ was normally applied to farms that served a local abbey or monastery (in this case it was probably Shrewsbury). When the Provis family owned the Grange it was a 100-acre farm. In the 1920s it was bought by the Needham family (who kindly provided some of the black and white photos you see here), and then, in 1976, Phyliss and Peter Hutton, Rose’s aunt and uncle, bought the house and turned it into a much loved country house hotel.
In 1986 Sheila and Alec Ward, Rose’s parents, who were looking for somewhere to run retreats from, bought it. Sheila and Alec established the Grange as a retreat centre that would focus on women’s experiences in the second half of life. Sheila ran her weekends for women - the numbers grew and women came back year after year saying the courses were life-changing and helped them recognise the strength within themselves. These courses formed the basis for many lifelong friendships.
During their thirteen years at the Grange, Sheila and Alec made many improvements to the house and grounds including the planting of many trees, two of which were a Mothers for Peace tree and a Peace in Northern Ireland tree. Together, Alec and Sheila started annual weekends, still ongoing, and now aptly named ‘working weekends’, in which they invited friends and family to help work on the house and in the gardens. It was during one of these weekends that the labyrinth (a meditational walk) was created.
Not only did they run courses for women, they hosted many other courses such as Mothers for Peace, the Creative Arts Retreat Movement (run by Canon Shells and his wife Ann), Yoga, Tai-Chi, Circle Dance, Meditation, Counselling training and Flower Painting.
The Grange also hosted groups from all over the world who came to take part in the International Eistedfodd in Llangollen and athletes who came to compete in the qualifying Ellesmere triathlon.
During their time at The Grange, Sheila started a Natural Therapy Centre in the old stable buildings where expert osteopaths, counsellors and reflexologists came to work.
The earliest picture we have of the Grange, circa 1927
The stable yard in 1933
The Needham family outside the kitchen garden in the 1930s
In 2000, Alec and Sheila decided to retire and, having moved our publishing company up from London in 1995, we then took over the house, continuing with Sheila’s courses for women (with her ongoing involvement for many years) and starting many new ones ourselves (specifically those related to traditional book skills - as we are both publishers).
We are sad to announce that Sheila died on 14th February 2015. Her website www.sophiatree.co.uk gives further details about her ideas on women in the second half of life and there is information there too about her book Towards Wisdom which describes some of her work in this field and her beliefs about love and its role in human evolution, as well as including a brief autobiography. The book is available for £5 from the Grange. She also wrote a biography of Lucy Behenna, founder of Mothers for Peace, and that book is also available from the Grange for £5. We still host weekends for women in the second half of life under the umbrella of one of the Mindfulness courses.