Cotton College, is a group of listed buildings within a fenced, landscaped and maintained estate, to be developed into high quality apartments. Set in stunning countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park, it has on one estate boundary a reserve owned by The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust consisting of ancient woodlands with flower rich grassland, located within a secluded river valley. The reserve has a public access path down the valley to the village of Oakamoor, once used by the villagers to come up to the beautiful Catholic church on the estate. The reserve and the fields around the estate are rich in bird song and butterflies and all this beauty can be seen from all the windows of the luxury apartments. In Cotton Dell Father Faber wrote his hymns which are regularly sung in churches in a hut called Father Faber’s Retreat, overlooking the babbling brook. Up above the valley there is a path through meadows rich in wild flowers, an absolute picture of riotous colour in the summer. The estate is a short distance from the towns of Ashbourne and Leek, both charming Georgian towns, and there is a Catholic school half a mile down the lane and a primary school in Oakamoor, both with excellent Ofsted reports.
Cotton College has an interesting history. Originally a seventeenth century country house it was acquired and enlarged by Thomas Gilbert in the nineteenth century into a fine country mansion. Gilbert was a man who built canals and lime kilns, and there is a test canal in the grounds. The Earl of Shrewsbury, a Catholic Revivalist, purchased the house from Gilbert in 1843 and commissioned A.W.N. Pugin to convert the house into a training centre for Catholic priests. It was gifted to the Birmingham Catholic Diocese who then used the building from 1873 as a school for young Catholic men. Pugin added a dwelling to the school and connected the building to the new St Wilfrid’s church, On Pugin’s death his son added a substantial dormitory, and later further additions including class rooms, laboratories and a gym were added until it became a substantial college. Cotton College closed down in 1987.
The Amos Group acquired a part ownership in the college and are currently in negotiations to convert the site into residential accommodation.