The Hermitage was part of the estate of the Abbey of Polesworth which passed into secular hands after the dissolution of the monasteries. The Hermitage became a farm with a succession of tenants.
The first mention of anyone living there is from the burial records of Polesworth which states that on 3 September 1653 Thomas Shutt of the Ermitage was buried at Polesworth and his widow on 17 December 1661. A William Colman of the Hermitage was buried at Polesworth in 1689 but it is not known if they were tenants or estate workers.
The first Hewitt tenant recorded is Robert Hewyt who was buried at Polesworth in 1691 and the last Hewitt tenant was Robert who died in 1869, his Great Great Grandson. The tenancy then went to his Great Great Great Grandson, William Paul of Freasley. The Hewitt family were tenant farmers.
The Hewitt wills and intestate documents are held at Stafford Record Office and show the family increasing its holdings in Polesworth over the years and by 1816, when Thomas Hewitt died, land had been amassed in Polesworth, Amington, Tamworth, Kingswood and Stonidelph. In Polesworth he owned seven acres of inclosed land which was once part of Polesworth field and also dwelling houses which were let out and a house and piggery situated where the old and new Police houses are on Station Road.
This Thomas Hewitt originally left his estate to James and Thomas his eldest sons equally but in a codicil he states he had given James ‘a considerable sum of money’ and virtually cuts him out of the will altogether, leaving him just £50 upon his death.
James had married and had one son Thomas who emigrated to Tasmania with a large amount of money at his disposal. This Thomas was considered to be well educated and was spoken of as a ‘considerable linguist and he has a vigorous mind and ardent nature’. After he emigrated he became involved in the Whaling Industry and formed Hewitt and Co. He was director of Van Diemen’s Land Bank and Managing Director of Derwent and Tamer Insurance Company until his death. He built numerous properties in Hobart and Launceston including the Lord Nelson tavern on the wharf in Hobart. He was active in buying and selling land and estates, but in the depression of the 1840s he lost heavily, ending his days in rented accommodation in Hobart, Tasmania, dying aged just 58; his descendants still live in Tasmania. It is quite likely that the considerable sum of money James’s father had given him was used to set his son Thomas up in Tasmania. James brother Thomas inherited his fathers estate which then passed to his brother Robert upon his death and Robert was the last Hewitt tenant of the Hermitage.
There are a number of recumbent gravestones in Polesworth churchyard to some of Thomas and Mary’s children before the estate passed to the Paul family of Freasley. Joseph Hewitt died October 30th 1861 aged 74, unmarried; Sarah Hewitt died October 2nd1827 aged 52, unmarried; Charlotte died May 15th 1838 aged 43, unmarried, shared a grave with Sarah; Samuel Orton Hewitt died April 9th aged 81, married but his wife does not share his grave; Charles Egbert Hewitt died March 22nd 1840 aged 45 years, unmarried; Thomas Hewitt died April 19th 1850 aged 76, unmarried, having become the tenant on his father’s death, the tenancy passing to his brother Robert after his death; William Hewitt died September 4th 1849, aged 65 years, unmarried, shared a grave with Thomas. Robert Hewitt died January 19th 1869 aged 86 and Ann his wife died September 1st 1859, he was the last Hewitt tenant of the Hermitage. Robert inherited £750 from his father together with the tenancy of the Hermitage and he and Ann lived in Tamworth, their bodies being brought back to Polesworth for burial. It is not certain if he farmed the land himself or whether his remaining brothers farmed it until his death. As he had no children the estate passed to William Paul the son of his eldest sister Mary. These gravestones are in the first row next to the driveway and have become overgrown with grass over the years.
There were other gravestones recorded in the 1980s but are now lost or grown over.Thomas Hewitt 1710-1745 and Sarah 1715-1792, the only part of the memorial which could be read was to Sarah ‘In Memory of Sarah Hewitt of HERMITAGE who departed this Life June 19th 1792 Aged 77’; Thomas Hewitt 1746-1816 and Mary 1752-1795, the only part of the memorial that could be read was for Mary which read ‘In Memory of Mary the wife of Tho. Hewitt HERMITAGE who departed this Life August 30th 1795 aged 43’. Ann Hewitt was also buried with Thomas and Mary and the memorial to her read ‘Also Ann their Daughter departed this Life April 28th 1796 aged 17’.
By Margaret Henley
Chair of Polesworth History Project Group