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.
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Linley was a small parish on the right bank of the Severn c. 4 km. south-east of Broseley. Its rural character was little altered by the enterprises of miners and ironmasters from the 17th to the early 19th century. (fn. 1)
The 19th-century parish comprised 643 a. (260 ha.). In 1934 the civil parish was enlarged by the addition of Caughley from Barrow C.P., but Linley C.P. was absorbed by Barrow C.P. in 1966. (fn. 2) This article treats the parish within its 19th-century boundary.
Linley's boundary was largely formed by water: (fn. 3) the Severn on the east, Dean brook (fn. 4) on the north, Linley brook on the south, and tributaries of Dean and Linley brooks on parts of the west. In 1639 the parish boundary north-east of Frog mill, which was on Linley brook, perhaps included fields on the right bank of Linley brook that were later in Astley Abbots. (fn. 5) The stream called Hifnal ('Issnall') brook in 1775 was probably the lowest, 0.75-km., length of Dean brook. (fn. 6)
From Linleygreen at c. 140 m. the land falls eastwards to the Severn at c. 34 m.; it also falls north and south to Dean and Linley brooks. (fn. 7) Geologically the parish divided into three: the eastern half was on Coalport Beds of the Upper Coal Measures; in the western half shales and sandstones of the Temeside Group of the Downtonian Series lay south of the church, while to the north were productive Middle Coal Measures consisting of shales, clays, and fireclays, with sandstones, and coal and ironstone seams. Some limestone occurs along Dean brook and near Frog mill on Linley brook. (fn. 8)
The Broseley-Bridgnorth road, locally called Linley Lane, ran north-south via Linleygreen and the church and was a turnpike 1756-1867. (fn. 9) In 1796 the owners of Preen's Eddy bridge (in Broseley) built a new straight section of 1 km. from Linleygreen to Lower Smithies, southwest of Linley church, in Willey and Astley Abbots; the old road, east of the new, survived as a drive to the Hall and church. (fn. 10) In 1639 a lane ran east from Linley Hall to Hifnal, an area in the north-east corner of the parish near the Severn. It survived as a bridleway in 1983. Another lane ran east from the Hem to the Severn, passing through the area of Colliersworks and of the fulling mill and crossing Linley brook to reach the Severn in Astley Abbots parish. By 1814 the eastern part had been diverted southwards via Frog mill; after 1949 the section from the Hem to the mill site disappeared, but the rest of that route survived as a track in 1983. (fn. 11)
The river was evidently the main outlet for Linley's industrial trade in the later 18th and early 19th century. In 1785 the lessees of mining rights had permission to lay a railway to a wharf on the Severn just in Astley Abbots parish. (fn. 12) Along the Severn bank ran the CoalbrookdaleBewdley tow path, made c. 1800. (fn. 13) The Severn Valley line of the West Midland Railway (later G.W.R.), which opened in 1862, ran along the river bank, with Linley station in Astley Abbots parish. (fn. 14)
Linley's name, 'lime-tree wood', (fn. 15) attests its wooded character in the Saxon period. The earliest clearance was presumably in the area around Linley church and the Hall; church and manor were recorded in the 12th century. (fn. 16) By the 14th century there was settlement in the north at Darley, mainly in Caughley and Willey, where a few houses remained in the 20th century. (fn. 17) By the early 17th century the modern landscape had evolved. (fn. 18) Linley church stood isolated, while 200 m. south one or two cottages stood among the farm buildings around Linley Hall. To the north of Linley hamlet, near the Willey boundary, a few cottages clustered around Linleygreen, mentioned as a place of residence in 1538. (fn. 19) Probably the only substantial outlying farmhouse was the Hem, on the southern parish boundary. (fn. 20) The open fields had been inclosed. In the eastern half of the parish there was a coal works, (fn. 21) its site apparently covered by Colliersworks coppice by the early 19th century. (fn. 22) In 1729 Richard Lacon, lord of the manor, built Linley Villa (fn. 23) at Linleygreen, overlooking the Hall and church: of brick, its main element a central canted and embattled bay, the house was extended in the 18th and 19th centuries. The pattern of settlement hardly changed after 1800.
Eight people paid to the subsidy of 1327, (fn. 24) and 16 men were mustered in 1542. (fn. 25) By 1642 there were 20 men over 18 in the parish. (fn. 26) In 1672, apart from the Hall and the Hem, six houses paid tax on three hearths or fewer. (fn. 27) In the earlier 19th century the parish's population was usually c. 100, though reaching 131 in 1811. In 1851 there were 19 inhabited houses in the parish. The population declined in the later 19th century, particularly in the 1880s, to 55 in 1891, at which level it remained in 1931. (fn. 28)
Three alesellers were presented in 1666. (fn. 29) Between the later 18th and mid 19th century there were two inns in the parish: the Britannia, in the north-east corner of the parish near the Severn, and, at Linleygreen, that known in the 1850s as the Duke of Wellington. (fn. 30) Both had closed by 1882, the Britannia having become Wrensnest Farm. (fn. 31)
Rowland Hunt (d. 1943), M.P. for the Ludlow division 1903-18 and in 1917 a founder member of the National Party, lived at Linleygreen from 1925. (fn. 34)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
Between the early 12th century and 1495 or later,LINLEY was held in socage of the prior of Wenlock. (fn. 35) In the later 1130s Richard of Linley, son of Baldwin, was lord, (fn. 36) and it was presumably Richard or members of his family who were mentioned later in the century: Richard and Ralph of Linley (c. 1150), Richard of Linley (1154-61), Walter of Linley (1177), and Richard of Linley (1180). Philip of Linley, lord in 1196 and 1200, was succeeded by two heiresses, (fn. 37) one who married William le Forcer (fl. 1216) (fn. 38) and Iseult, wife of Guy of Farlow (fl. 1221-c. 1235). (fn. 39) The manor was probably reunited by William's son Henry le Forcer, lord by 1255; he died in 1272 seised of a messuage and carucate charged with a rent due to the heirs of Guy of Farlow's son Philip. (fn. 40) Henry le Forcer's son William (kt. by 1310) died c. 1330 and was succeeded by Thomas le Forcer, presumably his son. (fn. 41) Later the manor was again divided, for in 1361 Ralph Darras (de Arras) was succeeded in a third of the manor by his son John, a minor. (fn. 42) John Darras had interests in the manor in 1395. (fn. 43)
The manor's further descent has not been traced with certainty (fn. 44) before 1460, when John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, died seised of half of the manor and leaving his son John as heir. (fn. 45) A moiety of Linley was held in dower by Margaret, countess of Shrewsbury (d. 1467), the 1st earl's widow, and passed to the 3rd earl in 1468. (fn. 46) He died in 1473, (fn. 47) and his uncle Sir Humphrey Talbot (fn. 48) died seised of the whole manor in 1493. (fn. 49) The manor then descended with Aston (in Munslow) until 1542 or later. (fn. 50)
Linley probably passed to Sir John Smith's son Edmund, whose daughter and heir Anne married William Powlett. (fn. 51) In 1581 Powlett sold his interest in Linley to Rowland Lacon. (fn. 52) Lacon settled the manor c. 1603 on his daughter-in-law Mary, with remainder to her husband Thomas Lacon and his heirs male. (fn. 53) Thomas died in 1640 (fn. 54) and by 1649 Linley belonged to his son Richard. (fn. 55) Richard Lacon (d. 1676) (fn. 56) was succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1725), and Thomas by his sons Richard (d. 1751) (fn. 57) and Rowland (d. 1756) (fn. 58) successively. Rowland was succeeded by his sons Richard (d. 1803) and Walter (d. 1814) in turn. Walter's son Thomas died unmarried in 1815 and Linley passed to Thomas's nephew Walter Lacon Atkinson (fn. 59) (Lacon from c. 1828), (fn. 60) a 'regular spendthrift' (fn. 61) who sold the encumbered estate to J. G. W. Weld-Forester, Lord Forester, in 1834. (fn. 62) Linley then descended with Willey (fn. 63) as part of the Forester estate. (fn. 64)
Linley Hall stands c. 150 m. south of Linley church. The thick stone walls of the stair hall and the east wing may survive from the medieval house. That building was heightened and remodelled early in the 17th century, when the hall was part of an extensive group of buildings. The hall was extended south in the 18th century when it was given a brick front of three bays, the end bays being slightly recessed. About 1830 the south front was extended west by two bays and given a new centre of three bays surmounted by a pediment. About the same time the east elevation was cased in red brick; the interior was remodelled, a large stair hall being made within the area of the medieval hall; and a new service wing was added behind the stairs. The Roman Catholic Lacons had a chapel in an attic room lit by a gothick window at its north end. (fn. 65) North and west of the house is a courtyard surrounded by a wall reduced in height in the 20th century but retaining a base, possibly medieval, of large stone blocks and an upper section of early 17thcentury red bricks decorated with lozenges of black headers. The former gardens, which in 1717 included a bowling green and a summer house, (fn. 66) are on the falling ground south of the house and are bounded on the west by a brick wall of the later 18th or early 19th century. A dovecot stood west of the church in 1639. (fn. 67) The farmhouse east of the Hall is early 19th-century.
By 1625 John Slaney, merchant tailor of London and brother of Richard Slaney (fl. 1603) of Linley, (fn. 68) apparently owned most of the southern half of Linley: THE HEM (164 a.) and Ruckleys farm (138 a.). (fn. 69) Richard's estate may have been acquired from the Lacons, some of whose lands lay interspersed among John Slaney's. (fn. 70) John (d. 1632) left the estate to Richard's son John (fn. 71) who sold it in 1652 to Michael Stephens, of Little Stretton. From Stephens (d. by 1680) (fn. 72) the property descended to his son Lancelot, probably the man who, as Lancelot Stephens the elder, of the Hem, died in 1711. His son Lancelot was probably the man of that name who died c. 1738, leaving the Hem to his son Peter. (fn. 73) In 1761 Peter Stephens, travelling in Italy, sold the property to his second cousin Thomas Stephens of Broseley, on whose death in 1787 (fn. 74) it passed to his younger son John (d. 1830). (fn. 75) Another John Stephens was a principal landowner in the parish until, probably c. 1870, his property was sold to Lord Forester. (fn. 76)
The house is early 17th-century and timber framed. (fn. 77) The main range originally had two rooms on each floor, with a lower kitchen or hall wing behind its south end. The framing is of high quality, close studded on the ground floor and square framed above, and the west front is symmetrical. A detached building to the south, perhaps a dairy, was joined to the house in the later 17th century, possibly when a staircase was built into the southern rooms of the main range. Single-storeyed brick additions were made to the east in the 19th century.
In 1910 the only landowner besides Lord Forester was W. H. Foster of Apley Park, who had 104 a. (fn. 78)
Linley was in Shirlett forest but was disafforested by 1301. (fn. 79) Woodland management was probably always part of the local economy; in 1717 49 oaks were sold from the Frith (or the Thrift), in the north-west corner of the parish, and in the 19th and 20th centuries the parish had large coppices (fn. 80) and was home to Lord Forester's head forester. (fn. 81) Thomas Barrett ran a small nursery 1828-44, growing fruit and other trees, shrubs, and plants for sale. (fn. 82)
The open fields, whose former existence is suggested by field names, were apparently inclosed by 1639. (fn. 83) Hemp butts then lay c. 0.5 km. east of the church, and further east, in the centre of the parish, there had formerly been a rabbit warren. (fn. 84) In 1910 Linley home farm comprised 223 a. and the Hem farm 135 a. (fn. 85)
Of the recorded arable acreage of 170 a. (a quarter of the parish) in 1801 about half was wheat, with barley, oats, and peas the other main crops. (fn. 86) In the late 19th and early 20th century the proportion of arable declined. It increased after the Second World War when more barley was grown. Pig keeping increased, and in the 1930s intensive poultry keeping was tried. (fn. 87)
In 1625 Littlefords mill was on Linley brook south of Linley hamlet and Frog mill was farther downstream. (fn. 88) Both were in Astley Abbots parish in 1842. (fn. 89) In 1639 a fulling mill, possibily inactive, stood downstream on the Linley side of the brook. (fn. 90) It was probably Doveys mill, which stood near fields called Walkmill leasow and closed before 1765. (fn. 91) In 1770 Needhams mill stood on the same side of Linley brook but nearer the Severn. (fn. 92)
In 1639 an area of 'colliers works' occupied the later site of Colliersworks coppice. (fn. 93) In the later 18th century coal and ironstone were mined on the Stephens estate in the eastern part of Linley. (fn. 94) There was opencast coalmining around Linleygreen c. 1948. (fn. 95)
There were iron smithies along Linley brook before 1639. (fn. 98) In 1765 George Matthews, a Broseley ironmaster, took a lease of the former Doveys mill and in 1770 also had Needhams mill, previously let to the Madeley Wood Co., ironmasters. By 1770 Matthews had built a rolling and slitting mill and a forge, both in the area of Doveys mill, (fn. 99) and in 1775 Needhams mill was a boring mill. In 1775 the partners John Wright and Joseph and Richard Jesson, who had recently developed the 'Shropshire' method of producing wrought iron, (fn. 100) took over the premises with additional land on the south side of the brook near the Severn, in Astley Abbots parish, where they built a forge and ironworks called Wrens Nest forge. (fn. 101) In 1808 the sites along the lower Linley brook were collectively called Wrens Nest forges. (fn. 102) Two large ponds on the brook were associated with them, the upper in Linley parish, the lower mainly in Astley Abbots at the hamlet of Wrens Nest (fn. 103) (later Apley Forge). Pig iron doubtless came from Wright & Jesson's furnaces at Barnett's Leasow in Broseley, but other suppliers were Bishton & Onions's Snedshill furnaces (1799) and the Coalbrookdale Co.'s Horsehay furnaces (1801-3). (fn. 104) The forges perhaps fell victim to the depression in the iron trade after 1815. (fn. 105) A pair of cottages called Upper Forge remained in 1979 near Colliersworks coppice. (fn. 106)
In the earlier 1850s Edward Owen of Linley Villa was proprietor of Owen's pills and drops. (fn. 107)
Linley had a highway surveyor by 1722, and the parish was a highway authority until 1889 when that responsibility passed to the borough of Wenlock's Barrow district committee as urban sanitary authority. (fn. 108)
In the period 1812-15 there was no-one on permanent poor relief, (fn. 109) but expenditure on the poor rose from £93 in 1817 to £177 in 1818 before settling at its earlier level in the 1820s and 1830s. (fn. 110) The parish was in Madeley poor-law union 1836-1930 (fn. 111) and Madeley rural sanitary district from 1872 until 1889 when it was included in the Barrow ward of Wenlock borough. (fn. 112) On the borough's dissolution in 1966 Linley, as part of Barrow civil parish, was transferred to Bridgnorth rural district, (fn. 113) and it was in Bridgnorth district from 1974. (fn. 114)
In the Middle Ages the chapel was in Holy Trinity parish, Much Wenlock, (fn. 117) but by 1528 it was considered a parish church and then became united to Broseley rectory, although Broseley itself was not entirely independent of Holy Trinity until 1595. (fn. 118) In the 1920s, by arrangement with the rector of Broseley with Linley, the rector of Willey with Barrow took charge of the parish. (fn. 119) In 1930 the living of Linley was separated from that of Broseley and united to Astley Abbots rectory, the patrons of Astley Abbots becoming patrons of the united living. (fn. 120) From 1961 until that union was dissolved in 1976 Linley was served by priests in charge: the rector of Willey with Barrow 1961-72, the rector of Broseley 1972-6. (fn. 121) Linley remained an ecclesiastical parish until 1976 when the parish and benefice of Linley with Willey and Barrow were created (fn. 122) with Lord Forester as patron. (fn. 123)
Linley's tithes were appropriated to Wenlock priory, 2 marks a year being assigned from them to the priory kitchen. In 1274 the kitchen's portion and the demesne tithes were reserved when the priory granted the rest of the tithes to the vicar of Holy Trinity, Much Wenlock. (fn. 124) The chaplain of Linley mentioned in 1416, (fn. 125) and probably in 1343, (fn. 126) may have been endowed with the demesne tithes, (fn. 127) though by 1528 the living was too small to support a parish priest. (fn. 128)
By 1577 the Crown had seized Linley chapel, the chapel yard, and the tithes as concealed property, and in 1577 granted them on successive days to John Farnham and to Peter Grey and his son Edward. (fn. 129) They were probably recovered by Rowland Lacon (d. 1608), (fn. 130) lord of Linley and patron of Broseley. (fn. 131) In 1846 the rector of Broseley with Linley, who received moduses of £2 each for the tithes of the WeldForester and Stephens estates in Linley, had 1 a. of glebe there. (fn. 132) The glebe had gone by 1910. (fn. 133)
A monthly service was held by the rector in the 1730s, the rector of Willey was curate in 1797, and the curate of Broseley took the monthly service in the earlier 19th century. (fn. 134) About 1818 the church was said to be regularly repaired by two inhabitants 'of considerable property'. (fn. 135) In 1851 it drew an average congregation of 40. (fn. 136) A stipendiary curate was sometimes appointed to serve Linley in the later 19th century. (fn. 137) After the church was restored in 1858 there was a weekly service. That was due to the efforts of W. Layton Lowndes, the new, Anglo-Catholic, tenant of the Hall: he taught, trained, and led the singers, accompanying them at services on his concertina in place of 'the usual instrument'. Ascension Day, restored as a church festival, was also celebrated as a village holiday. (fn. 138) By 1883 the eucharist was evidently celebrated with a degree of Anglo-Catholic ceremonial. (fn. 139)
The small church, dedicated to ST. NICHOLAS in the 18th and early 19th century but to ST. LEONARD by 1856, (fn. 140) comprises chancel, nave, and west tower and is of local sandstone. (fn. 141) Chancel and nave are probably later 12th-century. The blocked north doorway has a tympanum displaying a green man. The south doorway, which may originally have been almost opposite that on the north, has a tympanum with zigzag decoration. The tower, externally as wide as the nave, was added late in the 12th century. It has pilaster buttresses, and the two-light windows in the upper stage are set in recessed fields on the north, south, and west faces. The south doorway may have been moved to the west end of the nave when the tower was built. In the 14th or 15th century new windows were put in the nave.
In the 1830s the church was poorly lit and seemed like a 'dungeon'. (fn. 142) It was restored in 1858, through Layton Lowndes's exertions and generosity, to designs of A. W. Blomfield. The nave windows were presumably restored then, those on the south being enlarged, and new lancets were put into the west end of the chancel whose east wall was rebuilt and provided with three round-headed lancets. The south door was blocked. The tower was restored and one of the two bells recast, while internally new ceilings were inserted, benches replaced the old pews (whose wood was used to panel the chancel), and the elaborate 12th-century font was moved from the east end of the nave to the tower. (fn. 143) In 1862 Layton Lowndes gave a new set of silver-gilt plate, receiving in exchange the old plate marked 'BL to Lindly Church'. The rector paid for glass by William Warrington for the east window. (fn. 144) An oak pulpit was brought from Monkhopton church in 1948. (fn. 145) The blocked north doorway of the nave contains a memorial slab to Francis Anderton (d. 1779) and George Johnson (d. 1803), monks of Douai who died at Linley while on the English mission. (fn. 146) The hatchment of Richard Lacon (d. 1803) hangs in the nave.
Baptisms and marriages at Linley were entered in the Broseley register, as were burials of Linley people. (fn. 149) Separate registers of baptisms and marriages at Linley were begun in 1859 and 1860, (fn. 150) though marriages and burials were said c. 1903 to take place at Broseley. (fn. 151)
Eleanor Ridley was a recusant in 1604. (fn. 152) Richard Lacon was one of two men in Linley who refused to take the Protestation in 1642, (fn. 153) and the Lacons were papists in the 1660s and 1680s. About 1685 Edward Lacon, priest, uncle of the lord of the manor who died in 1725, left money to endow a priest to assist at Linley and thereabouts; later there were other endowments, much disputed in the mid 18th century. The Lacons were a notable recusant family in 18th-century Shropshire, and from the attic chapel in Linley Hall a resident priest (sometimes a Douai monk on the English mission) served an area that extended as far as Beobridge (in Claverley). (fn. 154) In 1767 about half of the parish's Roman Catholics lived in the Hall. (fn. 155)
Wesleyans met at Linley in 1841. (fn. 156)
By 1820 Linley children attended Barrow school. (fn. 157) Mrs. Jane Lowndes, of Linley Hall 1857-83, (fn. 158) kept a school for Linley children. (fn. 159) By the 1890s they attended Barrow or Broseley schools (fn. 160) and Miss C. Brown was then keeping a private preparatory school at Linley. (fn. 161)