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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MUNSLOW HUNDRED (part)
About 1831 the eleven parishes whose histories follow this article lay wholly or mainly in the northern part of Munslow hundred. (fn. 1) They comprise five of the seven parishes then wholly or partly in the hundred's Upper division (fn. 2) and six of the fourteen wholly or partly in the Lower division. (fn. 3)
For some three centuries, beginning in 1198, an extensive north-eastern part of the large county division based on Munslow hundred was occupied by the manors and townships that formed a hundredal liberty, or leet, subject to the privileged jurisdiction of Wenlock priory. In 1468 a quarter sessions borough of Wenlock was incorporated, and, in ways that seem to have been unintended (at least by the Crown), the new corporation's municipal privileges were extended to the whole of the priory liberty. That seems to have happened fairly promptly, otherwise such an odd borough could never have been conceived. More gradually, in the late 15th and earlier 16th centuries, the borough or liberty-eventually known as the Franchise-of Wenlock became a new division of the county. (fn. 4)
Distinct as the Munslow hundred and Wenlock Franchise county divisions thus became, in the area treated in this volume their parishes and townships interlocked in a way that was more complicated than in any other part of Shropshire. (fn. 5) Moreover the same area of Shropshire that became so oddly arranged after 1468 was also virtually the only area of the county described in 1086 which had complicated hundred territories: (fn. 6) then a detachment of Leintwardine hundred met the western end of Patton hundred and thus made the northern part of Culvestan hundred a detachment. (fn. 7) The later territorial complexity of the area can be attributed to the local interpretation of the 1468 charter (tolerated by the Crown), and the earlier situation too requires explanation. That would necessarily be more speculative, and here it can only be indicated that suggestions towards simplifying the Shropshire hundred boundaries as they are revealed in Domesday Book (fn. 8) have made it easier to detect pairings of eight of the nine south Shropshire hundreds; some pairs coincided with rural deaneries. Culvestan and Patton indeed were paired formally, having a common caput. (fn. 9) They coincided with two deaneries (Ludlow and Wenlock) rather than one. (fn. 10) A big break in that pattern, and prime cause of the complexity of hundred territories in the area treated in this volume, is the northern detachment of Leintwardine hundred comprising nine estates amounting to 21½ hides; (fn. 11) the detachment does not correspond with the medieval ruridecanal boundaries, and if, as long the Shropshire-Staffordshire border, ecclesiastical boundaries long survived to represent ancient secular boundaries, then the Leintwardine detachment may not have been ancient. It may have resulted from a reorganization of hundreds in south-west Shropshire by Earl Roger, who certainly altered them in the south-east. (fn. 12)
Leintwardine hundred disappeared after 1086, and the estates in its northern detachment were distributed to other hundreds, some to Munslow, thus introducing (or restoring) a simpler pattern of hundred territories in the area. (fn. 13)
Munslow was a new hundred formed by amalgamating Patton and Culvestan hundreds. Eyton considered that there was a wholesale reorganization of the Shropshire hundreds in Henry I's reign, but that seems unlikely: changes may have been spread over the 12th century, (fn. 14) the union of Patton and Culvestan perhaps achieved a century earlier than that of Hodnet and Wrockwardine. (fn. 15) The Domesday hundreds that went to form Bradford hundred had not had a common caput. Patton and Culvestan, however, had one, at Corfham, and a degree of union-the transaction of the business of two hundreds in the same place and on the same occasions-may be assumed to be implicit in the possession of a single caput. The process of union, however, may have been pushed towards completion by the choice of a new caput. At first glance the likeliest time for the abandonment of Corfham may seem to be the moment when the manor was alienated by the Crown in 1155, (fn. 16) but the choice of Munslow as the new meeting place at that date seems inexplicable, for Munslow was in Aston manor, which had probably been held in chief since c. 1115 or earlier by the Banastre family, (fn. 17) prominent landowners outside Shropshire; (fn. 18) it was certainly not a royal estate in 1155. For a dozen or more years after 1086, on the other hand, Corfham was held in chief by the earl of Shrewsbury (fn. 19) while Aston was held of him by his sheriff. (fn. 20) The routine of hundred business fell to the sheriff and his officers; it thus seems reasonable to suppose that it was at some time between 1086 and the destruction of the earl's power in 1102 that the sheriff, doubtless with his overlord's acquiescence, shifted the hundred meeting place just across the river: removing it from Corfham (on a by-road from Diddlebury to Peaton) to his own manor of Aston, where a more eligible situation on the principal highway along Corve Dale was marked out by a well known tumulus- Munslow. (fn. 21)
The relocation of hundred business at Munslow was doubtless a real convenience for the sheriff and the many suitors and others concerned in it, for the road past Munslow ran from Much Wenlock to Ludlow and was thus the quickest route through the two hundreds. The change may not, however, have struck contemporaries as of great import, for as late as 1233 the name Culvestan was still in at least occasional use to indicate lower Corve Dale. (fn. 22) Thus the term Munslow hundred may have gained currency as gradually as the use of Culvestan declined.