A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 10, Munslow Hundred (Part), the Liberty and Borough of Wenlock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1998.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Benthall lies on the right bank of the Severn facing the town of Ironbridge. (fn. 1) The former parish is largely rural, but in earlier centuries its extensive reserves of coal, ironstone, limestone, and clay were exploited, at times intensively as economic activity quickened in the neighbouring parishes of Broseley and Madeley. Benthall, however, never rivalled Broseley as an industrial and market centre and was in effect merely an adjunct to it. (fn. 2)
By the early 19th century the parish covered c. 844 a. (c. 342 ha.) and extended a maximum of 2.5 km. north-west to south-east and 3 km. north-east to south-west. Its bounds remained unaltered (except for the loss of a tiny detachment in 1883) until the parish was abolished in 1966. (fn. 3) To the east it was mainly bounded by Benthall brook (fn. 4) draining north to the Severn. To the north-west the boundary with Buildwas followed for a short distance the Hunger Dale stream, called Mallebroch when the boundary was defined in the later 13th century, (fn. 5) and near the Severn ran along the base of Benthall Edge. The notched south-west boundary of the parish followed field edges; a tongue of land protruding south-west from it included part of the hamlet of Posenhall and, having been bought by Lawrence Benthall in 1576 and probably incorporated in his manor of Benthall, (fn. 6) probably transferred to Benthall parish from Posenhall chapelry. (fn. 7) With the Posenhall land Lawrence acquired land in Wyke, which may explain the origin of a 1½-a. detachment of Benthall parish at Wyke, (fn. 8) transferred in 1883 to the surrounding civil parish of Much Wenlock. (fn. 9) To the south Benthall's boundary followed the Wenlock-Broseley road before swinging south and then east to follow the northern boundary of Willey's medieval park. (fn. 10)
Most of the parish is fairly flat, lying at c. 180 m. To the north and north-west, along Benthall Edge, the ground falls sharply towards the Severn and Buildwas to 60 m. and less. It also falls eastwards towards Benthall brook, the main natural route down to the Severn. (fn. 11) The early topography is apparently alluded to in some way by Benthall's name, meaning 'bent-grass nook'. (fn. 12) Much of the centre of the parish is covered by boulder clay. Workable Lower Coal Measures outcrop everywhere save in the area towards Posenhall. Benthall Edge is formed by an outcrop of Silurian limestone. (fn. 13)
About 1250 Philip of Benthall gave Buildwas abbey free right of way across Benthall for the carriage of coal, stone, and timber. Until the 19th century a road ran north and then west from a point east of Benthall Hall to Buildwas, although stone and timber for the abbey had probably been carried to the Severn and so up river rather than overland. (fn. 14)
The principal road, at least until the 18th century, was that from Much Wenlock to Broseley; it was a medieval route turnpiked in 1756. (fn. 15) In the 1630s, as later, a road forked north-west from it to Benthall Hall and church. There was probably then a second route to Hall and church, north from Posenhall; it was disused by 1808 when that road turned west to Wyke, just north of Posenhall. Perhaps already by 1630 the road that led out of the Wenlock-Broseley road to run north along the left bank of Benthall brook had become especially important. (fn. 16) In 1776 the Iron Bridge proprietors decided to improve the road up Benthall Bank to the Broseley-Wenlock turnpike, but it was steep and often obstructed and was replaced in 1828 by a new road looping east of Broseley town. (fn. 17)
By the mid 17th century coal from Benthall was shipped down the Severn, (fn. 18) and the barges, trows, and watermen working from the Bower Yard wharves were mainstays of the local economy until the 1860s. Eight owners had 13 barges or trows in 1756, (fn. 19) while in 1851 there were c. 11 families of watermen in the parish. (fn. 20) Along the Severn bank ran the Coalbrookdale-Bewdley tow path, made c. 1800. (fn. 21) River use declined after the railway came in 1862, though lime was still carried by barge in the late 19th century. (fn. 22) Benthall ferry was replaced as the main crossing of the Severn by the Iron Bridge, built 1777- 80 from the eastern end of Bower Yard to Hodgebower in Madeley Wood; the bridge closed to vehicles in 1934. (fn. 23) A small ferry owned by the Maws operated across the Severn at the western end of the parish in the later 19th century. (fn. 24)
The Severn Valley line of the West Midland Railway (later G.W.R.), which ran along the base of the Edge, opened in 1862. Ironbridge and Broseley station, near the Iron Bridge, closed in 1963 and the line in 1970. (fn. 25)
Seventeen people from Barrow, Benthall, and Posenhall paid to the 1327 subsidy, (fn. 26) and 11 men from Benthall and Posenhall were mustered in 1542. (fn. 27) The 1642 Protestation was taken by 84 adult male parishioners. (fn. 28) In 1672 hearth tax was paid by 29 households; 20 of the houses had just one or two taxed hearths and 7 had three or four. (fn. 29) In 1676 there were 241 inhabitants of Benthall, perhaps including children. (fn. 30) By 1700 the parish's population was over 500, (fn. 31) in 1801 c. 600. (fn. 32) Thereafter it fell to 530 in 1851. It eventually stabilized at c. 320 in the 1920s. (fn. 33)
A local tradition states that when Benthall Hall was taken by Parliamentarian forces in 1645 the village to the north was razed. (fn. 34) It seems more likely that any surviving settlement around the Hall was gradually deserted at that time in favour of the new industrial areas of Bower Yard and Broseley Wood, the latter spilling over from Broseley into Benthall as an area of settlement called the Mines. Both had probably begun to grow in the late 16th century. (fn. 35) In 1635 John Weld of Willey asserted that Lawrence Benthall had built, or encouraged 'poor and disorderly people' to build, cottages both in Benthall and in Broseley (presumably Broseley Wood). Benthall denied it, saying that he had built only two cottages, at Benthall Marsh and for miners not disorderly people. (fn. 36) Nevertheless settlement along Benthall brook expanded in the 17th century. By contrast with Broseley the parish had few large houses: apart from Benthall Hall the only substantial house was one with six hearths, probably Thomas Hartshorne's and possibly the house in Spout Lane, near Broseley Wood, known as the Bailiff House: dated 1672, it has early 16th-century internal features, is built of well coursed and squared sandstone, and formerly had exposed timber framed gable ends. (fn. 37)
Most 17th-century cottages were probably of stone or timber. In the early 18th century, however, brick became ubiquitous and most dwellings were still detached cottages, often of 1½ storey. Sometimes in the later 18th and 19th centuries such buildings were incorporated in semi-detached or terraced houses. The Old Vicarage, a three storeyed brick house with a symmetrical facade of c. 1700, is the only 18thcentury house of any distinction. (fn. 38)
Benthall's population in 1700 was only a quarter the size of Broseley's, and Benthall never rivalled Broseley as an industrial and market centre. The reasons are not far to seek: large-scale coal mining began at least a generation earlier in Broseley (c. 1580) than in Benthall (c. 1630), and Benthall's winnable coal, ironstone, and good clays proved more limited. Benthall's commons, on which incomers could be settled, were smaller than Broseley's, whose natural advantages were fully exploited by its landowners, particularly James Clifford (d. 1613) and Sir John Weld (d. 1666). (fn. 39)
A few substantial brick houses, mainly farmhouses, were built in the first third of the 19th century, notably Hill Top Farm, Barratts Hill Farm, Benthall Hall Farm, Benthall Villa Farm, and Benthall House. Otherwise the quality of housing was poor. (fn. 40) In 1801 Bower Yard was a small village and boat yard, described as sunless for over a third of the year. (fn. 41) Most settlement remained, as before, along the Wenlock-Ironbridge road, close to the eastern parish boundary. The densest cluster of houses was at Mine Spout where the parish workhouse, the New Inn, lime kilns, and a clay-pipe works also stood. (fn. 42) In the later 19th century there was some piecemeal slum clearance, and in the 20th century older cottages continued to be demolished, often to be replaced by fairly insubstantial bungalows. The eight houses of Haybrook Terrace were completed by Wenlock borough's Barrow district committee in 1953. The only privately built estate is the Bentlands, c. 30 houses built in the later 1970s. (fn. 43)
Houses near the river presumably drew their water thence until the Madeley & Broseley Water Works began a piped supply in the early 20th century. (fn. 44) The southern parts of the parish obtained water from two main springs or wells. Purse well, near Posenhall, was in use by the early 17th century (fn. 45) and supplied Benthall Hall, presumably by pipe, from 1754. (fn. 46) The mine, or main, spout was in use by the 19th century. (fn. 47) In the 20th century Purse well was used as the basis of the Broseley (or Posenhall) reservoir whence water was piped to the locality. (fn. 48)
Benthall wake was held in October until the early 20th century. (fn. 49) Between the 1630s and c. 1790 there were usually c. 8 alesellers in Benthall. Numbers then steadily declined: (fn. 50) in the mid and late 19th century there were two public houses, from 1895 only one, the New Inn near Mine Spout, licensed by 1821 (fn. 51) and remaining in 1985. Four friendly societies were formed in the parish 1800-10; (fn. 52) they had 407 members in 1802-3. One was a Female Society with 94 members. (fn. 53) Coursing greyhounds were kept at Benthall Hall in the early 19th century. (fn. 54)
George Maw (d. 1912) moved to Benthall Hall c. 1852, when Maw & Co. began to make tiles in the parish. A writer on subjects including agriculture and geology, Maw was a notable botanist, amassing 3-4,000 distinct species of plants, principally alpines, at the Hall. In 1866 he published A Monograph of the Genus Crocus. (fn. 55) The actress Ruby Hermione Yolande (Clinton-) Baddeley (1906-86) was born in the parish. (fn. 56)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
BENTHALL was probably part of the Domesday manor of Much Wenlock, (fn. 57) and the prior of Wenlock remained overlord until the priory's surrender in 1540. (fn. 58) In the late 16th and early 17th century the manor was said to be held of the Crown in free and common socage, and not in chief. (fn. 59)
Anfred of Benthall was probably lord in the early 12th century. (fn. 60) He had two sons, Hamon and Robert. Hamon's son Robert enfeoffed Siward the champion (or of Frankton) in his Benthall lands, Siward in turn granting them to Wenlock priory. Following Robert's death c. 1204, however, they were restored to his son Robert, a minor. That Robert (d. by c. 1249) was succeeded by Philip of Benthall (d. by 1283), apparently his brother, (fn. 61) who settled Benthall on his second cousin Roger of Benthall. (fn. 62) The manor then passed to John Burnell, who married Roger's daughter Margery. (fn. 63) After 1294 John became a monk and was succeeded as lord by his son Philip of Benthall (fl. 1330). (fn. 64) Philip's son John probably succeeded him, for John's son and heir, Walter, was lord in 1363 and the manor was later claimed by Walter's son John. (fn. 65) After 1383 (fn. 66) Benthall passed to the Benthalls' kinsman Hugh, Lord Burnell, (fn. 67) who also had another estate in Benthall. (fn. 68) Thenceforth the manor descended with Acton Burnell until 1562. (fn. 69) The Benthalls seem to have retained possession as tenants; the last John's grandson Robert Benthall (fl. 1521) was a freeholder c. 1497, as was Robert's son William in 1540. (fn. 70)
In 1562 Thomas Crompton, lord of Acton Burnell, sold most of Benthall to William's son Richard (d. 1575), (fn. 71) and the estate passed successively to Richard's sons Lawrence (d. 1603) and John (d. 1633) (fn. 72) and then to John's son Lawrence (d. 1652) who compounded in 1645. (fn. 73) Lawrence's son Philip (d. 1713) succeeded, and his son Richard died unmarried in 1720, the manor passing to his cousin and fiancée Elizabeth Browne. Elizabeth (d. 1738) left the estate to her brother John Browne (d. 1746) who in turn left it to his brother Ralph. Dying childless in 1763 Ralph left Benthall to his wife Anne (d. 1767), who in turn left it to her brother Francis Turner Blithe (d. 1770). Blithe left the manor to his daughter Lucia, widow of Francis Turner. In 1771 she (d. 1781) married the Revd. Edward Harries (d. 1812), of Cruckton and Hanwood, and in 1844 their son Thomas sold Benthall to J. G. W. Weld-Forester, Lord Forester, (fn. 74) with whose heir the manor remained in the earlier 1980s. (fn. 75)
In 1934 C. G. W. Weld-Forester, Lord Forester, sold Benthall Hall and the adjoining 134-a. farm to James Floyer Dale (d. 1942) and his wife and cousin Mary Clementina, née Benthall; the couple changed their surname to Benthall in 1935. In 1958 Mrs. Benthall (d. 1960) and her cousin Sir Edward Benthall transferred the property bought in 1934 to the National Trust. (fn. 76) Sir Edward's brother Sir Paul became the Trust's tenant at the Hall in 1962, but by 1985 Sir Paul's son James was tenant. (fn. 77)
Benthall Hall was probably built c. 1580 by Lawrence Benthall on the site of an earlier house. It is of brick faced with red sandstone and has, on the whole, a conventional plan with central hall, eastern service wing and western parlour wing. An unusual element is introduced, however, by an additional bay between the hall and parlour. The main section of that bay is now occupied by a staircase of c. 1620-30, but it is likely that the original stair was in the square turret immediately to the north. The southern entrance to the hall is protected by a two-storeyed porch and there are two-storeyed semi-octagonal bays on the west side of the parlour, on the hall and on the service end. The last may be an addition of the early 17th century when the southern rooms were richly panelled and made into additional parlours or bedrooms. Panelling and a moulded plaster ceiling in the parlour and the overmantel in the hall are prob ably contemporary with the new staircase. The service wing was extended north, probably in the 17th century when the status of its south end was raised. Its older fittings are now of the 18th century and perhaps contemporary with alterations, including new fireplaces in both wings, attributed to T. F. Pritchard. New doorcases at the foot of the staircase and a new ceiling there were probably inserted after a fire in 1818. (fn. 78)
Robert Burnell (d. 1292), chancellor of England and bishop of Bath and Wells, had an estate at Benthall, perhaps that held by Richard son of John in 1277-8. The bishop's nephew Sir Philip Burnell enlarged the estate and died in 1294 seised of lands held of John Burnell, lord of the manor. On the death of Philip's son Edward, Lord Burnell, in 1315, the estate was said to be held directly of the prior of Wenlock. (fn. 79) It was then assigned in dower to Edward's widow Aline, (fn. 80) who was said to hold it of the Benthall family and was succeeded in 1363 by his nephew and heir Nicholas, Lord Burnell (d. 1383), (fn. 81) who held an assize rent at Benthall of the prior of Wenlock. (fn. 82) Under Nicholas's son Hugh, Lord Burnell, the estate was presumably absorbed into the manor. (fn. 83)
Possibly because a fishery there was reserved to Wenlock priory in the late 11th or early 12th century, when the rest of Benthall was subinfeudated, c. 2 a. at Bower Yard were in Madeley, a demesne manor of the priory until 1540. In 1704 Comberford Brooke, lord of Madeley, sold the land to John Ashwood of Madeley. (fn. 84)
About 1560 the Crown seized as alleged chantry land 30 a. of arable in Benthall, which from the 13th to the 16th century had been glebe for Holy Trinity church, Much Wenlock. Within a year or so the land was sold to Edward Stephens and by him to Lawrence Benthall. (fn. 85)
In 1576 Stephen Hadnall, lord of Marsh, alienated land in Benthall, Posenhall, and Wyke to Lawrence Benthall. (fn. 86) It is likely that the land was incorporated in Benthall manor.
In the later Middle Ages the TITHES of Benthall were probably owned by Wenlock priory as appropriator of Holy Trinity church, Much Wenlock. They were among those which the Crown granted in 1554 to Stephen Hadnall (d. 1580) for his life. In 1581 the Crown sold them to two speculators. (fn. 87) The lord of the manor was impropriator of all the great tithes in 1844 when they were commuted to £150. (fn. 88)
Agriculture. There was open-field land south, east, and perhaps north-east of Benthall church. In 1517 it was said that Robert Benthall had inclosed 20 a. for pasture. To the north Benthall Edge's steep slopes supported woodland, and to the east, on slopes towards Broseley, were Hazel wood and Astwood, the latter partly in Broseley. Field names suggest woodland clearance. The southern part of the vill probably comprised common pasture. (fn. 89)
In the later 16th and early 17th century much common was inclosed. In the 1630s the process brought John Weld of Willey, lord of Marsh, and Lawrence Benthall, lord of Benthall, into conflict; both were enterprising landowners. Benthall denied Weld's claim that large areas of wood and waste in Benthall were commonable and asserted that Benthall Edge (c. 60 a.), Hazel wood (c. 30 a.), and Marsh field (c. 50 a). had been inclosed time out of mind and were demesne land and that Astwood had been inclosed for c. 60 years. He claimed the Marsh Head (adjoining Willey park, in the south-east of the parish) as part of his manor (by implication demesne land) but conceded that Benthall Marsh (c. 60 a. north of the Wenlock-Broseley road) was open common and that the tenants of Posenhall (mainly Weld's property) had grazing rights in Benthall. In 1637 arbitrators allotted the Marsh Head to Weld and Benthall Marsh to Lawrence Benthall, and final inclosure presumably soon followed. (fn. 90)
In the later 16th and early 17th century cattle were important in a mixed economy, 8 oxen perhaps then being the preferred team. When Richard Benthall died in 1720 his demesne farm had cattle worth £93 (perhaps c. 50 beasts in all, including 8 oxen), 6 horses (£15 15s.), sheep worth £17, pigs (£10), poultry (10s.), and corn, peas, vetches, and hay (£64). Flax and hemp worth £5 and 8 st. of wool (£4) were stored in Benthall Hall. (fn. 91)
Arthur Young visited Benthall in 1776 and was told that farms were usually 100-200 a., the arable normally being ploughed by six oxen 3-5 years old, although alternatively four horses might be used. Fairly few sheep were kept. Turnips were being introduced, while hemp was 'almost universally' grown by both farmers and cottagers, who also dressed and spun it before it was passed on to be woven into linen 'in the country'. Cottagers usually also grew potatoes and kept a pig. Young described a farm of 320 a., presumably the Hall demesne, which employed 7 men and 2 dairymaids. Half was grass supporting 8 horses, 6 oxen, 38 cattle, and 80 sheep. The arable was growing 35 a. of wheat, 35 a. of barley, 40 a. of oats, 20 a. of peas, 20 a. of clover, and 10 a. of turnips, with 10 a. of fallow. Much, if not all, of the wood around Benthall was then in demesne and managed as coppice: cut at 21 years the oak poles were barked before being sold as pit props. (fn. 92) In 1837, however, 'thousands of flourishing fir trees' covered Benthall Edge. None remained in 1986, when rough deciduous woods covered much of the slopes down to the Severn. (fn. 93)
In 1801 oats comprised 48 per cent of the recorded cereal acreage, wheat 46 per cent, and barley 6 per cent. (fn. 94) Until after the Second World War, when the amount of arable increased, it usually occupied only about a third or half as much land as did grass. During that time the proportion of wheat grown was fairly constant, although those of barley and oats fluctuated considerably. The proportions of animals kept remained stable: sheep were the most common, followed by cattle and then pigs. There was much intensive poultry rearing in the 1930s.
A water mill in the late 16th and early 17th century presumably stood on Benthall brook where there were two ponds in 1618. (fn. 97) In the late 18th century a corn mill with an overshot wheel 60 ft. in diameter was built c. 200 m. south of the Iron Bridge. Like the bridge, Benthall wheel soon attracted tourists. (fn. 98) By the mid 19th century steam power was also employed. Used only occasionally by 1900, the mill was dismantled in 1935 and ruinous in the earlier 1980s. (fn. 99)
Coal was probably dug by 1250, and was certainly got in the 14th century when it was exported via the Severn. (fn. 102)
Large-scale coal extraction perhaps did not begin as early in Benthall as in Broseley, (fn. 103) and it was apparently Lawrence Benthall (born c. 1589) (fn. 104) who accelerated exploitation of the parish's mineral reserves. By 1634 he had sunk pits for coal and ironstone, perhaps particularly in Benthall Marsh, and had allegedly encouraged the settlement of 'many poor and disorderly people' as workmen. By the terms of his agreement with John Weld in 1637 Benthall was able to mine throughout Benthall Marsh and the Marsh Head and to lay railways. (fn. 105) By 1645, when they were seized by Parliament, Benthall's collieries ranked with those of Broseley and Madeley, and it was said that each year 30,000 tons of Benthall coal were shipped down the Severn to Worcester or beyond. (fn. 106) Benthall remained one of the Severn's pre-eminent collieries in 1695. (fn. 107)
After the mid 17th century, when many of the easily won reserves were probably worked out, Benthall's mines may never again have equalled Broseley's. (fn. 108) Pierce & Co., who ran potteries in the parish in the early 19th century, got coal and clay there. (fn. 109) In 1851 the inhabitants included 30 miners, three-quarters of them coal miners and the rest ironstone miners, (fn. 110) but most probably worked in Broseley pits. (fn. 111) There was some mining in the late 19th and the 20th century. (fn. 112)
Small amounts of ironstone were also mined in the parish. (fn. 113)
Benthall ironworks was built in the 1770s on Benthall brook, c. 400 m. from the Severn. The Harries family and William Banks and John Onions were operating the works together by 1778 and in formal partnership 1797-1801. (fn. 114) The lord of the manor's younger son F. B. Harries remained active in the works until 1814 or later. (fn. 115) Initially the blast for the two furnaces was provided by a water wheel, a pumping engine returning the water to pools above the works. Later an atmospheric engine blew the furnaces. The furnaces specialized in pig for casting, sent in the late 1770s to the ironworks in Wolverley (Worcs.), and between c. 1797 and 1801 to the Soho foundry in Smethwick (Staffs.). In 1803 there were two furnaces but the engine could blow only one at a time. Production was 30 tons a week, part of which was used in the adjoining foundry and the rest sold. The works, employing c. 700, had a water-powered boring mill by 1781 and a forge. By 1784 the works was capable of manufacturing steam engines, although in the early 19th century domestic goods were probably the main manufacture. The furnaces went out of blast in 1821 but the foundry, under Stephen Hill, and the boring mill worked until the 1840s. (fn. 116)
There was a 'pitchhouse' in 1712. (fn. 117) A range of ovens for the manufacture of coke and tar, similar to those at Calcutts (in Broseley), was built by Lord Dundonald c. 1787, next to the ironworks. By 1799 they had been demolished. (fn. 118)
In 1731 Thomas Barker, chief agent in North Wales for the London Lead Co., leased land in Benthall, probably on the river bank near the broseley boundary. (fn. 119) A smeltery of Barker's design, with two coal-fired reverberatory furnaces or cupolas, was in use later that year. It used ore from the company's mines in Llandrinio (Mont.) and coal from Little Dawley. The ore supply, however, proved unsatisfactory and in 1736 the works was leased to Matthew Dore & Partners of the Bog mine (in Wentnor), who used it until the mid 1740s.
In the 18th and 19th centuries vast amounts of limestone were got from Benthall Edge for fluxing and burning. In the late 18th century at least some of the limeworks were run as a joint venture with Benthall ironworks. (fn. 120) In the late 19th century three groups of kilns survived: one west of Bower Yard, one on the top of Benthall Edge, and one west of Mine Spout. (fn. 121) There was some quarrying and lime burning in the 1920s and 1930s. (fn. 122)
Local railways served the parish's industries by the 17th century. By 1636 Lawrence Benthall was laying wooden railways to his mines, and in 1637 he gained permission to cross the land of John Weld of Willey. (fn. 123) The main line in the parish, down its eastern side, was Benthall rails, apparently in existence by 1686. In the late 18th century the New Willey Co. used it, as an alternative to the Tarbatch Dingle railway, to carry iron to a Severn wharf. At that time, therefore, the line probably ran from Willey furnaces to the neighbourhood of Benthall ferry. The southern part of the line probably fell into disuse when Willey ironworks closed in the early 19th century, but the northern section probably took limestone and Benthall ironworks' products to the river until 1856 or later. (fn. 124) Short railways probably served various extractive industries in the parish. (fn. 125) In 1801 and later an inclined plane carried limestone from Benthall Edge to kilns at Bower Yard. (fn. 126) In 1833 it ran south-east from the top of the Edge before turning north-east, probably to join Benthall rails near Benthall ironworks. (fn. 127) At least two other short inclined planes also served the limestone quarries. (fn. 128)
In the early 18th century brown lead-glazed ware, yellow slipware, and salt-glazed dipped stoneware were made near Coppice House. (fn. 129) Eleanor and John Lyster had a kiln in 1735. (fn. 130) William Booth was leasing an 'old pottery' in the parish in 1801. (fn. 131) The Pitchyard pottery, on the site later occupied by E. Southorn's clay pipe works, probably also began in the 18th century. (fn. 132) The Pitchyard pottery was leased to Jasper Cox in 1800 (fn. 133) and was run from before 1814 until 1826 by William Lloyd of Pitchyard House, and from 1826 until 1833 or later by Mrs. Lloyd, presumably his widow. (fn. 134)
The main pot works in the parish, the Benthall Pottery, was founded in 1772 when John Thursfield (d. 1789) built a new manufactory north of his existing Haybrook Pottery in Posenhall, which he soon afterwards gave up. John's son John later entered the business and was joined by his brother-in-law William Pierce. (fn. 135) Pierce & Co. ran the Benthall Pottery until 1817-18. It was then taken by Samuel Roden & Co., who had the lease until 1823-4 when John Farnall became proprietor. Farnall still ran the works in 1837 (fn. 136) and perhaps remained in charge until c. 1845 when W. T. Jones and Edwin Bathurst, lessees of the Haybrook Pottery, reunited the two concerns. (fn. 137) They remained a single business, the works being known collectively as the Benthall Potteries, although in the early 1850s, when there were 31 employees at the Benthall Pottery, Jones and Bathurst may have divided the managerial responsibility with the latter running the Benthall concern. (fn. 138) The main products were then Rockingham-style ware and stoneware. (fn. 139)
Between c. 1862 and c. 1907 the Benthall Pottery Co. was run by William Allen and thereafter, until the early 1920s, by his son W. B. Allen. (fn. 140) In 1880 the traditional coarse 'red and yellow' ware still sold readily in Wales. Allen, however, was beginning to promote the works as the Salopian Decorative Art Pottery Co. In 1882 its products included copies and 'adaptations' of vessels from the ancient world, pots based on flower heads, and barbotine ware. By 1901 Allen's attempt to 'raise the character' of the products had largely foundered, and, apart from a few Greek- and Hispano-style vessels, the manufacture was mainly coarse wares, lamp bases, and electrical engineering ceramics. (fn. 141) In 1929 the company was re-formed as the Benthall & Ironbridge Pottery Co. Ltd., which continued trading until the Second World War. (fn. 142)
In 1795 and 1805 John Thursfield also held a pottery formerly run by Joseph Glass (d. 1790), where one kiln produced earthenware. (fn. 143) Pierce & Co. had it in 1811, (fn. 144) and it was presumably the single-kiln pottery held in 1845 by Jones & Bathurst on the north side of the Wenlock- Broseley road 0.5 km. east of their Benthall Pottery. (fn. 145)
By the time that Maw & Co. moved from Benthall in 1883 they were making decorative vases. (fn. 146)
In 1922 Woolfson, Rowe & Co. made earthenware in Bridge Road as the Salop Pottery Co. Ltd. The works was operated between c. 1929 and 1937 by the Leigh Pottery Co. Ltd. The works had three kilns, and the main product was probably domestic ware such as teapots. Production was restarted by a Stoke-on-Trent firm c. 1950, but it soon ceased. (fn. 147)
In 1635 Lawrence Benthall was promoting the manufacture of bricks at Benthall Marsh. (fn. 148) The Burton family had a brickworks which was perhaps, by c. 1800 as in 1845 and later, at Bower Yard. By 1856 white refractory firebricks were the main product, although floor and roofing tiles were also possibly made there in the later 19th century. Burtons built the coalfield's first down-draught chimney in 1874. About 1895 control of the firm passed to the Jones family, and c. 1917 to Bennett Bros. Known as Benthall Firebrick Works from c. 1900, it closed c. 1930. (fn. 149) A second brickyard at Bower Yard in 1845 belonged to F. B. Harries. (fn. 150) In 1852 George and Arthur Maw, who for some time had used clay from the area in their Worcester factory, opened a tileworks on the site of the former ironworks. In the early years the Maws concentrated on development, and production was not on a commercial scale, but by the early 1860s Maws had a highly regarded design team and were receiving awards and commissions for products which included tile mosaics, friezes, and chimney pieces. Roof tiles were designed by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt. The Benthall works closed in 1883 when the Maws' new Broseley works opened. (fn. 151) Between the late 1930s and c. 1955 the Benthall Stoneware Co. made sanitary pipes at the former Releigh Pipe works, employing 30 or 40 people. Between 1930 and 1982 the Benthall Pipe Co. made agricultural and sanitary pipes at the former Benthall pottery. (fn. 152)
Clay tobacco pipes were made in Benthall from the later 17th century or earlier. As in Broseley local clays were used in the 17th century. (fn. 153) Apparently prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries were the Bradley and Hartshorne families, (fn. 154) and in the 19th the Shaws and Rodens. (fn. 155) About 1858 Edwin Southorn took over Noah Roden's business adjoining the New Inn in Bridge Road. An important and innovative factory, the Broseley Pipe Works, was soon established, employing 28 pipemakers in 1861 and 40 in 1871. After Southorn's death in 1876 Hopkins & Co. ran the works as the Raleigh Pipe Works, said in 1885 to be one of the largest factories of its kind in England. About 1882 control of the works reverted to the Southorns, who kept up production there until c. 1900. (fn. 156)
Boats were built and repaired at Bower Yard in the 18th and 19th centuries for the local community of Severn watermen. (fn. 157)
There was a short-lived ropewalk c. 1821. (fn. 158)
By 1369 at least part of Benthall was in Wenlock priory's Bradley grange (fn. 159) and thus presumably owed suit at the prior's court of Bradley, absorbed in the 1380s into that of Marsh. (fn. 160) Benthall presented at the Marsh court in 1477 and still in 1530. (fn. 161)
In 1635 a dispute arose between Lawrence Benthall, lord of the manor, and John Weld of Willey, who was then seeking to extend the jurisdiction of his manor of Marsh. (fn. 162) Default of suit to Marsh court was alleged against Benthall men in 1636. In 1635 Lawrence Benthall claimed that courts had been held for Benthall manor but agreed that there had not lately been a court baron. He said Benthall's inhabitants had 'constantly' appeared at Bourton hundred court (fn. 163) but not elsewhere. Weld disputed that, and in 1637 the parties agreed that in future Benthall manor was to be held of Marsh, freely and in socage, paying 4s. 6d. a year, with its inhabitants appearing at the Marsh leet and indemnified against proceedings for non-appearance at Bourton hundred court. Benthall continued to appear at Marsh court until 1879 (fn. 164) or later.
Out relief was given in 1737-8. (fn. 167) In 1775-6 £38 was spent on the poor, and in 1782-5 an average of £65. By 1802-3 expenditure had risen to £154, spent on out relief for 30 adults and 10 children. (fn. 168) By 1814 c. £300 a year was being spent. (fn. 169) Some of the poor then lived in a poorhouse and two cottages, for which cheese, potatoes, and flour were bought; others received out relief. In 1816-17 expenditure doubled to £680; for the only time in the surviving accounts the 17th-century house at Mine Spout (the later Bailiff House), which was used as the poorhouse or workhouse, (fn. 170) was referred to as Benthall School of Industry. Also apparently exceptional was the setting to work of the poor as labourers in the district. By c. 1820 annual expenditure had returned to c. £300. In 1835-6 most expenditure was on weekly pay, although there was still a poorhouse, presumably that at Mine Spout: (fn. 171) 'old workhouse cottages' there were so called in 1910. (fn. 172)
Benthall was in Madeley poor-law union 1836-1930, (fn. 173) and in Madeley rural sanitary district from 1872 until 1889, when it was transferred to the Barrow ward of Wenlock borough. (fn. 174) On the borough's dissolution in 1966 Benthall civil parish was abolished, most being absorbed by Barrow C.P., then assigned to Bridgnorth rural district and in Bridgnorth district from 1974. Bower Yard, however, was included in Dawley C.P. and U.D., (fn. 175) abolished in 1974. Thereafter the Bower Yard area formed part of Wrekin district, unparished until 1988 when the Bower Yard area was included in the Gorge C.P. (fn. 176)
Benthall had a chapel by 1221, when Robert of Benthall conceded the advowson to the prior of Wenlock. In 1274 Benthall's tithes and 30 a. of glebe were given to the vicar of Holy Trinity, Much Wenlock, (fn. 181) and independence of Holy Trinity parish was achieved only slowly. In the early 17th century Benthall was served by a curate appointed by the vicar of Holy Trinity. The curate could baptize and solemnize marriages, but burial rights were acquired only in 1702. (fn. 182) With its endowment in the 18th century the curacy was a perpetual curacy, later styled a vicarage, in the gift of the vicar of Holy Trinity until 1930. The united benefice of Broseley with Benthall was then formed, with Lord Forester as patron; at the same time Posenhall extra-parochial place was joined to Benthall ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 183)
The curate of Benthall had no glebe and no tithes except the small tithes of that part of the parish which had probably formed part of Posenhall chapelry. From the rest of the parish £1 13s. 4d. was paid prescriptively to the curate in lieu of all small tithes. In 1844 that payment and the small tithes were commuted to £8. (fn. 184) Between 1735 and 1816 the living had been augmented six times by Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 185) By the mid 19th century it had been endowed with the 15-a. Coxfold farm at Barr Beacon (Staffs.) and in 1851 was worth £98. (fn. 186) The living's value varied little until c. 1920 when it began to rise considerably. (fn. 187) In 1923 the glebe was sold. (fn. 188)
Before the Reformation there was land endowing the celebration of Our Lady's service in the chapel. (fn. 189) Baptisms and marriages in the chapel became more frequent from the 1570s, (fn. 190) perhaps as the mining population increased, (fn. 191) but in the later 16th and the 17th century it may have been poorly furnished: in 1552 there had been one little bell and a poor chasuble, and the chalice used belonged to William Benthall. Impiety was said to be 'too much used' in 1716; the minister of Much Wenlock then came to conduct a Sunday afternoon service once a month with communion three or more times a year. (fn. 192) On Census Sunday 1851 morning service was attended by 70 adults and 30 children, afternoon service by 110 and 30 respectively. (fn. 193)
There was an incumbent curate between 1609 and 1622-3 (fn. 194) and in 1642, (fn. 195) but thereafter until the mid 18th century Benthall probably did not have a resident minister, and there seems to have been no benefice house. (fn. 196) Some, probably all, of the curates instituted thereafter were absentees until c. 1880. (fn. 197) They normally employed an assistant curate who, by 1851, usually lived at Benthall House; (fn. 198) one such was the antiquary C. H. Hartshorne (1827-8). (fn. 199) The perpetual curates lived at Benthall House from c. 1880 to 1898, (fn. 200) and at Benthall Vicarage (the former Coppice House) from 1902 until the living was united with Broseley. (fn. 201) They had no salaried curates except 1899-1902, when the vicar of Much Wenlock was incumbent. (fn. 202)
Between 1893 and the 1940s a mission room at Hilltop was used for Sunday evening services, and Sunday school continued to be held there in 1948. In 1948 Mrs. M. C. Benthall gave it to the parish, and it was named the Floyer Hall after her husband. (fn. 203)
The medieval chapel was dedicated to ST. BRICE, bishop of Tours (d. 444). (fn. 204) It was 'burnt down to the ground', probably in 1645, and 'wholly demolished'; afterwards no warden was appointed until the building of a new church was undertaken. (fn. 205) A new church of ST. BARTHOLOMEW, so known by c. 1740, (fn. 206) was built in or soon after 1667 (fn. 207) probably on the medieval chapel's foundations. (fn. 208) Consisting of chancel and nave with a west bell turret, (fn. 209) it had a hammer-beam roof with carved decoration. There are some medieval floor tiles which, with pews, panelling, and furnishings that are mostly early 17th-century, were perhaps salvaged from the old chapel. In 1673 the lord of the manor owned several seats in the chancel, (fn. 210) and it was probably late in the 17th century that the west gallery was added. The font may be of c. 1670 and the bell is of 1671. The royal arms, painted on plaster, filled the space over the chancel arch but were half whitewashed over when a nave ceiling was inserted. (fn. 211)
In 1884 a vestry was built between nave and chancel on the south side, and the chancel was gothicized. (fn. 212) It was perhaps then that high square pews, said in 1878 to block the chancel, were removed. In 1893 a western apse was added, with a porch replacing the old south door. At the same time the external stairs to the gallery were removed, the pulpit was moved from the south wall to the east end of the nave, and the lion's head bee bole (fn. 213) over the old south door was renewed. The nave ceiling was removed c. 1950. (fn. 214) In 1974 a painting of the Coronation of the Virgin was hung in the church. (fn. 215)
The churchyard was extended in 1868 and 1937, and in 1964 it was levelled and the stones were removed. (fn. 216)
The earliest register begins in 1640 and is complete from 1670 except for marriages 1752-5. (fn. 217)
In the later 16th century the Benthalls of Benthall Hall were recusants or sympathizers and the Hall has a priest's hole. (fn. 218) Four papists, including Edward Benthall's widow Fortunata, lived in Benthall in 1680, (fn. 219) eight in 1716, (fn. 220) and one in 1767. (fn. 221)
An ostensibly medicinal cold bath, built by Isaac Wyke, a Broseley surgeon, on land near Coppice House which he had leased in 1744, may really have been a baptism pool for the Broseley Baptists whose chapel had recently opened nearby. (fn. 222)
William Genner's house near the Iron Bridge was licensed for protestant meetings in 1811. (fn. 223)
Day schools and a Sunday school, supported by subscription and later partly by an endowment of £3 10s. a year, had c. 45 pupils in 1820 and c. 30 in 1835. There was also an infant school begun in 1821; in 1835 it had 12 pupils. (fn. 224)
Benthall Parochial Mixed school, with 80 places (fn. 225) in a schoolroom and classroom, (fn. 226) opened in 1872; (fn. 227) there was also a teacher's house. (fn. 228) Annual income in 1890 included £2 15s. from endowment besides school pence and voluntary contributions; pupils bought their books. (fn. 229) Attendance averaged 60 in 1885 and 71 in 1891. (fn. 230) The school closed in 1891, mistress and pupils transferring to the new Broseley Wood C.E. Infant school. (fn. 231)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
Mrs. Anne Browne (d. 1767) left £200, the income (£6) distributed in small doles in 1820 and later. After 1820 Edward Brown left £200, the income to repair a tombstone and to relieve the poor; in 1857 £6 12s. 4d. was given in small sums for clothing. Samuel Roden (d. 1854) left £100 to maintain a tombstone and to provide cash doles for ten widows; the first distribution (£3 6s. 6d.) was in 1858. Edward Roden, by will proved 1883, left £100 for annual cash doles to widows, and Elizabeth Morgan, by will proved 1886, left £100 to maintain tombs and provide doles for widows.
By 1975 the parish charities had been combined with those of Broseley civil parish. (fn. 232)