The Domesday Book (1086) describes Trentham as a royal manor. In 1150 a priory of Augustinian canons was established. In 1153 Trentham was reclaimed by the Crown and a Royal Deer Park was created. While of little religious importance, sheep farming made Trentham a relatively wealthy spot until the monastery was dissolved in 1537. Priory buildings and the rectory were leased to Richard Trentham and sold to Sir Thomas Pope in 1538.
A new period started in 1540 when the Wolverhampton wool merchant James Leveson bought the estate. For over 300 years Trentham was to become a playground for his family’s growing wealth and occasionally over-active imagination. From 1630-39 a new mansion and walled gardens were built, fruit trees and willows were also planted. In 1695 George Plaxton proposed a programme to transform Trentham, including a pair of canals, a long walk and a long avenue. The family commissioned him and many other architects to make Trentham “larger, higher and handsomer” and to add new features to the grounds and gardens.
The biggest makeover however was done by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown between 1759 and 1780 with the enlargement of lake and grounds, new parkland, with two neo-classical lodges etc. Work at Trentham continued between 1793 and 1833 with changes to the house, new bridges, a Mausoleum and many other improvements.
In 1833 George Granville, 2nd Duke of Sutherland, embarked upon an extensive rebuilding scheme. Thus began the era that created the Trentham Estate in the form seen today. Celebrated architect Charles Barry redesigned the house (hall, dining room, conservatory, belvedere tower). The Orangery, Sculpture Gallery, Clock Tower were added and in 1842 he rebuilt the church.
However, his greatest achievement was creating the Italian Flower Gardens. Divided into three terraces, the gardens were flanked on the east by a wrought iron trellis and on the west by a shrubbery. The celebrated innovative planting schemes were the work of Head Gardener George Fleming. He and other head gardeners ensured that Trentham was one of the most celebrated gardens in the country.
From the late 19th Century, industry in the potteries had such a negative influence on the environment that it was impossible to maintain the gardens to the level of splendour intended. Indeed, the location was such an unpleasant place to live that the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland abandoned the house entirely. In 1911 Trentham Hall was sold for the recovery of the materials and many of the buildings were demolished and the grounds were used for a Golf Club, tennis courts and a bandstand. In 1931 Trentham Gardens Ltd. was founded to manage the gardens, including an Art Deco outdoor swimming pool and a new ballroom.
After being used by the London Clearing Bank and the army during the war, Trentham became famous as a venue for dances and entertainment in the post war times. During the 1980s a leisure park was started but had to be closed down in 1984. At this time the National Coal Board purchased the Estate and repaired Trentham Lake.
In 1996 St Modwen Properties and the German investor Willi Reitz bought Trentham to regenerate and restore the historic estate and gardens. After six successive years of planning, negotiations and a public enquiry, work started to create a premier tourist and leisure destination and a facility for the residents of North Staffordshire as well. (see: Garden regeneration project)