The county-seat is Stafford, on the Sow River, not far from the Trent Valley, and on a high hill south-west of the town are the remains of the castle of the Barons, of Stafford, originally built a thousand years ago by the Saxons to keep the Danes in check. This castle was destroyed and rebuilt by William the Conqueror; again destroyed and again rebuilt by Ralph de Stafford in Edward III.'s reign. In the Civil Wars this castle was one of the last strongholds of King Charles I., but it was ultimately taken by Cromwell's troops and demolished, excepting the keep; a massive castellated building of modern construction now occupies its place.
The river Trent, in its winding course, forms near Trentham a fine lake, and the beautiful neighborhood has been availed of for the establishment of the splendid residence of the Duke of Sutherland, about a mile west of the village, and known as Trentham Hall. The park is extensive, the gardens are laid out around the lake, and the noble Italian building, which is of recent construction, has a fine campanile tower one hundred feet high, and occupies a superb situation. The old church makes part of Trentham Hall, and contains monuments of the duke's family and ancestors, the Leveson-Gowers, whose extensive estates cover a wide domain in Staffordshire. Trentham, which is in the pottery district and not far from Newcastle-under-Lyme, was originally a monastery, founded by St. Werburgh, niece of Æthelred. She was one of the most famous of the Anglo-Saxon saints, and some venerable yews still mark the spot where her original house stood, it being known as Tricengham. These yews, said to have been planted about that time, form three sides of a square. The religious house, rebuilt in William Rufus's reign, was given, at the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII., to his brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and it afterwards came into possession of the Levesons.
From the marriage of a daughter of Sir John Leveson with Sir Thomas Gower sprang the family of the present ducal house of Sutherland, the head of it being created Marquis of Stafford in 1786 and Duke of Sutherland in 1833. The present duke is the third who has held the title, his mother having been the daughter of the Earl of Carlisle—the famous Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland. The old Trentham Hall was built in 1633, being rebuilt and enlarged by Sir Charles Barry about fifty years ago.