Mytton Oak Road in Copthorne, Shrewsbury, is well known as being the location for the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, and is named after Mytton Oak Farm, now on Cruckmeole Lane. The area once belonged to the Mytton family, who had been major landowners in Shropshire since Medieval times.
One Thomas Mytton was a staunch supporter of King Richard III, and so, as chief magistrate of Shrewsbury, ensured that the town was barred to Henry Tudor (the future Henry IV) on his way to meet Richard at Bosworth in 1485. Mytton is said to have stated, in effect, that the only way Henry would get into Shrewsbury was ‘over his dead body’. However, the general mood of the rest of the Magistrates and inhabitants of the town was supportive of Henry, and after much discussion it was agreed to open the gates. It is said that to free himself from his former oath, Mytton lay down and allowed Henry to ride over him!
In 1549 the Myttons moved their family seat to Halston Hall, between Oswestry and Ellesmere. Another Thomas Mytton (1597-1656) was an important Parliamentarian soldier in the Civil War, rising to become a Major General. But the member of the family who is best remembered now is John (‘Mad Jack’) Mytton (1796-1834). Jack was a man of immense charisma, and yet many of his actions caused great hurt and scandal. He was even-tempered and generous to a fault, and never held grudges, but he wouldn’t listen to advice from anybody. He had enormous strength and endurance, and did not seem to notice either cold or pain. (He probably had what we would now term ‘hypomania’ – bipolar illness without the depression.) He loved practical jokes, most of which were harmless enough, but some caused much pain, especially to his horses. One well-known story concerns his pet bear, which he had bought as a cub from a travelling circus. One day at a dinner party he came into the room riding the bear, much to the alarm of the dinner guests! The bear was docile enough to begin with, but when spurred on by Jack, turned and inflicted a serious wound in his leg.
His whole life was devoted to pleasure, and yet he never seemed to derive lasting satisfaction from anything. The pleasures he most indulged in were hunting, shooting and horse racing, and he was a superb rider and a crack shot. He had an enormous appetite for food, and especially alcohol, drinking about six bottles of port a day for at least 12 years. As this is nearly ten times today’s recommended limit, it is hardly surprising that his life was so short. He seemed to have no sense of the value of money, spending extravagantly on his pleasures, but being generous to his friends and staff as well. He spent £10,000 on getting himself elected to Parliament in 1819, but he only attended once, and that for just 30 minutes, as he found it boring!
In contrast to his generosity to friends and staff, he treated his wives very badly and largely ignored his children. His first wife died young, but his second wife got a judicial separation and the details of his behaviour towards her became public. It is estimated that he spent over £20million in today’s money, gradually selling off all the family estates, and even the contents of Halston. To escape his debtors he fled to France, where at times he became quite insane. He later returned to England, finishing his life in a debtors’ prison, but his innate goodness was remembered after his death by that fact that an estimated 3,000 people turned up for his funeral.