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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Acton Scott parish (1,934 a., 783 ha.) (fn. 1) is a long, roughly rectangular tract of countryside running down from the south-facing slopes below Ragleth Hill across Ape Dale and rising up again to the crest of Wenlock Edge, which makes the south-eastern boundary of the parish. The parish has always been entirely rural and, despite the proximity of the county's main north-south route through the Stretton gap, fairly isolated and lightly populated. None of its three settlements, Acton Scott, Alcaston, and Henley, was ever more than a small village or hamlet.
Quinny or Marsh brook marks the central part of the parish's north-western boundary where the land falls steeply down from Castle Hill to the Stretton gap, drained by the brook. The southern part of the parish's north-eastern boundary is defined by Mar or Marsh (fn. 2) brook. Both brooks were mentioned in 1695 when the bounds of Acton Scott manor, occupying the north-western two thirds of the parish, were recorded. (fn. 3) The manor is drained by their tributaries, descending north-east and south-west from a central watershed. The south-eastern third of the parish, beneath the escarpment of Wenlock Edge, comprised Alcaston manor. The stream running along the foot of the Edge is there known as Byne brook, (fn. 4) and Alcaston drains south-eastwards into it.
The central and south-eastern parts of the parish are largely covered by glacial drift producing cold heavy soils. (fn. 5) The north-western part of the parish, once occupied by Oakwood common, is higher ground, mostly over 213 m. and lying on Ordovician mudstones of the Harnage Shales and the Acton Scott Group. There too soils are often heavy, though there are areas of easier worked loam like that east of Acton Scott Farm. Limestone occurs along Wenlock Edge and in the outcrop on which Acton Scott village stands. (fn. 6)
Running along or close to the parish's southwestern boundary is the Church Stretton to Ludlow road, turnpiked in 1756. (fn. 7) It was perhaps then that a new section of road was made in Acton Scott parish along the foot of Castle Hill, c. 200 m. east of the old line in Wistanstow parish. (fn. 8) Before the 19th century roads led east from the Stretton-Ludlow road into the parish, to run south of Acton Scott village and north of Henley. From Acton Scott roads ran east and south-east to Hatton and Wolverton (in Eaton-under-Heywood). (fn. 9) Alcaston lay on a minor route along the foot of Wenlock Edge, midway between Upper Affcot (in Wistanstow) and Wolverton. (fn. 10) After T. P. Stackhouse went to live at Acton Scott in 1807 (fn. 11) roads through that manor were much improved. Apart from numerous minor works, (fn. 12) in 1808-9 Welsh navvies built new roads from the Ludlow turnpike up Castle Hill to Acton Scott village and thence north across the common to meet a bridleway called Smallsty (OE. smael 'narrow', stig 'path') (fn. 13) between Little Stretton and Ragdon, (fn. 14) and c. 1817 a more northerly route from Acton Scott to Hatton was made. (fn. 15) Between 1812 and 1820 the road from Acton Scott to Wolverton, passing close to Acton Scott Hall, was closed. (fn. 16) The Marshbrook to Wall's Bank road, via Acton Scott and Hatton, was turnpiked under an Act of 1822. (fn. 17) The Stretton-Ludlow road was disturnpiked in 1873 (fn. 18) and that from Marshbrook to Wall's Bank in 1878. (fn. 19)
The Buildwas to Craven Arms railway line of 1867, eventually part of the G.W.R., crossed the parish north of Henley; it was lifted soon after 1951. (fn. 20)
Enclosures west of Acton Scott village (fn. 21) and artefacts (fn. 22) indicate settlement and cultivation before the Roman conquest. East of Acton Scott Farm, within a sub- rectangular ditched enclosure, (fn. 23) is the site of a Roman villa, excavated in 1844 by Mrs. Frances Stackhouse Acton. (fn. 24)
The names of both manors in the parish contain the -tun element, with Alcaston meaning 'Alhmund's estate' and Acton perhaps a settlement with some specialized function in regard to oak timber. Acton Scott's suffix (sometimes a prefix, Scott's Acton) derives from one of the medieval families holding a share of the manor. (fn. 25) Henley hamlet, mentioned in 1255, (fn. 26) lies in the southern part of Acton Scott manor; its name may indicate an origin as a wood (fn. 27) where birds were kept. (fn. 28)
Neither manor was populous in 1086, with four recorded inhabitants at Acton and seven at Alcaston. (fn. 29) Alcaston may have been no larger in 1327 when three paid the subsidy. Six paid in 1327 from Acton Scott manor, (fn. 30) including Robert de la Wode who, like John de quercubus (fl. 1287), (fn. 31) perhaps lived in the Oakwood area. (fn. 32) Twenty-five men were mustered from Acton Scott in 1542 and 9 from Alcaston. (fn. 33) In 1676 there were 72 adults in the parish. (fn. 34) Four years earlier hearth tax had been paid for only 3 houses at Alcaston but for 15 at Acton Scott, where 8 were single-hearth houses, (fn. 35) several of them presumably squatter cottages in Oakwood, where a cottage had been licensed in 1667. (fn. 36) In the earlier 18th century the Oakwood cottages were probably known collectively as Woodhouses, (fn. 37) perhaps from Acton Woodhouse (mentioned in the 16th and 17th centuries), (fn. 38) a name later disused.
In the later 18th century the population may have increased a little, as it did in the early 19th, from 164 in 1801 to 215 in 1851. (fn. 39) A few more cottages were built, and in one or two cases farmhouses whose lands had been re-allotted were divided into labourers' dwellings: the former farmhouse at the north end of Henley common, for instance, housed four families in 1820. (fn. 40) Although the farmhouses were probably in a reasonable state of repair, some having been refurbished in the 1780s, (fn. 41) many cottages in 1810 were poor. Those on the common were mostly timber framed, two-roomed, and thatched, their windows rarely glazed; two farmhouses in Acton Scott manor then also remained thatched. (fn. 42) Many were much improved later, Frances Stackhouse Acton, the lord of the manor's widow, giving help with finance and design; (fn. 43) the cottages grouped at the south end of the former Oakwood common, for instance, were largely rebuilt in stone with elaborately glazed windows, and one became known as Swiss Cottage. An elaborate display of pierced barge boards and new casements was employed in the refurbishment of the 17thcentury cottage at the bottom of Castle Hill, overlooking the Church Stretton to Ludlow road; it was later the post office. (fn. 44) Other projects influenced by Mrs. Stackhouse Acton (d. 1881) (fn. 45) probably included the construction of new lodges on the north, south, and west approaches to the Hall in the mid 19th century (fn. 46) and the building of a school, again in ornate timber framing, in 1866. (fn. 47)
In the 20th century the population continued its gradual decline in numbers, to 115 in 1991. (fn. 48) There was little change in settlement, though a few cottages were abandoned. Wood Acton, designed in the Cotswold style by P. R. M. Horder, was built in 1925 for Mrs. Laura Charlotte Wood Acton, (fn. 49) and in the late 1940s Ludlow rural district council built two pairs of farm workers' houses north of Acton Scott village. (fn. 50)
There was an alehouse at Acton Scott in the later 13th century (fn. 51) but no later public house is known. About 1730 the parish wake was said to be on Holy Cross day (14 September), (fn. 52) a century later on the Sunday before St. Matthew's day (21 September). (fn. 53) A library fund, raised 1829-33, was used to buy books of an improving character. (fn. 54) The village hall, designed by Horder, was built in 1926 at Mrs. Wood Acton's expense. (fn. 55) She had earlier started a nursing association which employed a village nurse and was financed by farmers' and cottagers' subscriptions. (fn. 56)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
Eadric (Edric) held ACTON, later ACTON SCOTT, in 1066. (fn. 57) If, as seems probable, he was Edric the wild, (fn. 58) he may have forfeited the manor c. 1070 for his rebellious attack on Shrewsbury, (fn. 59) though he was soon reconciled with the king and is last definitely heard of in 1072 but may have survived as late as 1086; by then, however, Acton had passed to a kinsman. (fn. 60)
Roger of Montgomery, created earl of Shrewsbury in 1068, held Acton in chief in 1086, but in 1102 his son Earl Robert forfeited all his English lands and titles. (fn. 61) Later in the 12th century the FitzAlans became overlords of Acton Scott, and they were recorded as such until 1574. (fn. 62)
Probably in the 1150s William FitzAlan granted a mesne lordship over Acton to John le Strange who held it of William's barony of Oswestry in 1165. (fn. 63) The Stranges' mesne lordship was recorded until c. 1284. (fn. 64)
The terre tenancy was evidently divided be tween coheirs during King John's reign and, as no tenant in chief held any of the shares, some of which were further divided, subinfeudated, and probably sold, a connected history of the divided manor, reunited in 1587-8, must to some extent be speculative. (fn. 65)
Ealdraed (Eldred) held Acton of the earl of Shrewsbury in 1086. (fn. 66) Brother of the rich thegn Siward and so second cousin of Edric the wild, Ealdraed had held three Shropshire manors in 1066; he retained none of them in 1086 (fn. 67) but besides Acton he held two manors, Smethcott and part of Aldon (in Stokesay), whose histories (fn. 68) throw light on Acton Scott's. Ealdraed's tenure of Acton may not have lapsed, (fn. 69) for its continuance seems the best explanation of the common elements in the 13th-century histories of the three manors, which had long been held of different lords. Ealdraed's part of Aldon was held of the Lacys by 1086, (fn. 70) Smethcott of the honor of Montgomery formed by Henry I. (fn. 71) Three sisters inherited thirds of the three manors in King John's reign and their father, dead by 1203, was William Leyngleys (the Englishman), (fn. 72) likely to have been Ealdraed's descendant.
The sisters were Christine, Maud, and Margery. (fn. 73) The shares of Christine and Maud in Acton manor were subdivided into sixths, probably by 1255 when four coparceners (probably representing five) were mentioned. (fn. 74) Christine's share of Acton may have passed by 1240, like her share of Aldon, to Roger le Poer, her son by her first husband, John le Poer. If so, by 1252 Roger's share of Acton may have passed (as his share of Smethcott did) to Roger Pichard. (fn. 75) Sir Roger Pichard (fl. 1278), of Staunton on Wye (Herefs.), (fn. 76) probably relinquished his interest in Acton before 1255. The owners of his share of Acton were then evidently Walter le Secular, husband of Christine's granddaughter Cecily, and Cecily's sister Joan. (fn. 77) Cecily and Joan were the daughters of Roger, (fn. 78) either Roger le Poer or Roger Pichard.
Soon after c. 1284 Cecily, as widow of Walter (fl. 1277), subinfeudated her share of Acton to John, son of Richard of Hatton, and John sold it to Alice, daughter of Hugh of Newton, inducted as rector of Acton Scott in 1278. (fn. 79) That share cannot be separately identified with later shares but is likely to have been one of those which Roger and Catherine Devereux and William of Ludlow may be presumed (from their interests in the advowson) to have held in 1305. (fn. 80) From William, son of the great wool merchant Lawrence, his share seems to have descended with Stokesay to his son Sir Lawrence, owner in the later 1340s, (fn. 81) to Sir Lawrence's descendant William Ludlow, one of three coparceners in the manor in 1428, (fn. 82) and to Maurice Ludlow, owner of the share in 1497; (fn. 83) nothing more is known of it.
In 1278 Cecily le Secular's sister Joan, perhaps a minor in 1255 when unmentioned as a coparcener, (fn. 84) and her husband Nicholas of Stafford subinfeudated her sixth of Acton manor and advowson to Robert of Stretton, clerk; (fn. 85) it was probably the share held by Robert of Munslow c. 1284 and, with a share of the advowson, by Stephen, a minor and son of Robert of Henley, in 1305. (fn. 86) Robert of Henley was the beneficiary of the subinfeudation of 1278: (fn. 87) Robert of Stretton was either the same man, (fn. 88) for whose son Robert of Munslow acted as guardian, or was a trustee for Robert of Henley, who was identical with Robert of Munslow. The use of the surname Henley suggests that the family was resident in the parish. Stephen of Henley, still alive in 1346, (fn. 89) was perhaps an ancestor of William of Henley, one of three coparceners of Acton manor in 1428 and presumably the same as the franklin William Minton of Henley, a coparcener in 1431. (fn. 90) The Henleys' share was probably that united with the larger part of the manor by Richard Acton's purchase in 1553 of a moiety of Oakwood common and a chief house at Henley. (fn. 91)
William Leyngleys's daughter Margery of Smethcott (fl. 1252) was succeeded in her third of Acton by her younger son Stephen of Smethcott (fl. 1255). (fn. 92) Stephen's son Roger held it c. 1284, (fn. 93) but Stephen's share of Acton was evidently soon afterwards given to his cousin's daughter Emme Purcell, heir to half of the third share of Margery's sister Maud. (fn. 94)
Maud (fn. 95) (d. by 1231) (fn. 96) seems to have left two daughters: by 1255 her share was divided between Thomas Purcell, husband of her granddaughter Emme, and Reynold le Scot, probably her grandson. (fn. 97)
Purcell's sixth share, to which Margery of Smethcott's third share was later added, belonged c. 1284 to John Purcell, (fn. 98) still the owner (of half of the manor) in 1320. (fn. 99) William Purcell, of Norbury, owned it in 1346 and 1349 and probably Hugh Purcell in 1400 (fn. 100) and 1408. (fn. 101) During the 15th century the share passed to the Wynnesbury family: in 1473 Hamlet Wynnesbury, presumably descended from Alice Purcell, cousin of William Wynnesbury of Norbury and wife of Sir William Wynnesbury, (fn. 102) died seised of lands in Acton Scott and Henley. (fn. 103) For over a century the share followed the descent of Pillaton (Staffs.). (fn. 104) Hamlet was succeeded by his son William (fn. 105) (d. 1502), whose daughter and heir Alice, wife of Richard Littleton, (fn. 106) died seised of a moiety of the manor in 1529. (fn. 107) Alice's son Sir Edward Littleton died in 1558. His son, another Sir Edward, died in 1574, (fn. 108) Acton Scott having been settled in 1573 on his wife Alice for life. (fn. 109) In 1587 their son Edward sold that share of the manor to Richard Acton of Acton Scott and his son Edward, (fn. 110) reuniting the manor; in 1588, presumably on Alice Littleton's death, the Actons were enfeoffed in that share of the manor. (fn. 111)
Reynold le Scot, lord of part of the manor in 1255 and probably Maud's grandson, was alive in 1259, but by 1263 his son Walter had succeeded him. Walter's son Reynold le Scot (fl. v.p. 1263) held the share in 1272 and c. 1284. He was dead by 1305 when his widow Isabel le Scot was joint patron of the church. Reynold's son Walter (born c. 1268, fl. 1328) (fn. 112) was succeeded by his son John (fl. 1332-8) le Scot alias of Acton. John's son Roger Acton (fl. 1369) (fn. 113) was lord in 1397 of ½ knight's fee in Acton Scott. (fn. 114) He was apparently succeeded by Walter Acton, and Walter by his son Edmund. By 1425 Edmund's son William was lord (fn. 115) and was listed as a coparcener in 1428 and 1431. (fn. 116) William's son William was succeeded by his son Richard (d. by 1488), (fn. 117) who married Eleanor, daughter of Hamlet Wynnesbury, another coparcener in the manor. (fn. 118) Their son Thomas Acton, probably still a minor in 1497, (fn. 119) died in 1537. His son (fn. 120) Thomas (d. by 1553) was succeeded by his son Richard, then a minor, (fn. 121) under whom the manor was reunited in 1587-8. (fn. 122)
In 1553 a property that probably represented at least one of the medieval shares in the manor was sold by John Stringfellow to Richard Acton of Acton Scott. It comprised a moiety of Oakwood common, and a moiety of a capital messuage at Henley. (fn. 123) The Henley property was probably Henley farm, which remained part of the Acton Scott estate in 1991. (fn. 124) Henley Farm is an early 17th-century baffle-entry house, originally timber framed. It was largely clad in stone in the 18th century, when it was turned to face away from the farmyard. (fn. 125) The farm buildings were rebuilt in 1768. (fn. 126)
Richard Acton died in 1590 and was succeeded by his son Edward (fn. 127) (fl. 1621), (fn. 128) whose daughter and heir Frances (d. 1632) married Walter Acton of Aldenham (d. 1641). Their son and heir was Edward Acton of Aldenham (cr. bt. 1644, d. 1659) who compounded for his estates in 1646. (fn. 129) Sir Edward's son Sir Walter (d. 1665) was followed by his son Sir Edward (d. 1716). (fn. 130) Under a settlement of 1710 (fn. 131) Acton Scott passed to Sir Edward's second son Edward Acton, of Acton Scott (d. 1747), whose heir was his nephew Edward Acton (d. 1775), also of Acton Scott. The younger Edward's wife Anne (d. 1780) (fn. 132) had a life interest in all his Shropshire estates. (fn. 133) In 1773 their daughter and heir Susanna married John Stackhouse (fn. 134) (d. 1819), the botanist. (fn. 135)
Stackhouse's widow (fn. 136) owned Acton Scott until her death in 1834. (fn. 137) The next lord was their younger son Thomas Pendarves Stackhouse who assumed the additional name of Acton in 1834 and died without surviving issue in 1835. (fn. 138) T. P. Stackhouse Acton had lived at the Hall and in effect been the resident squire since 1807. A life interest in the Hall was left to his widow Frances (d. 1881), a writer on local history and archaeology, (fn. 139) but he was succeeded in the estate by his elder brother Edward William (fn. 140) (d. 1853), who had assumed the names Wynne-Pendarves in 1815. Perhaps after the expiry of an interest in the manor belonging to Wynne-Pendarves's sister Mrs. Holt (fn. 141) (d. 1873) his heir and greatnephew Augustus Wood came into the estate, assuming the additional name of Acton in 1874.
Augustus Wood Acton, honorary chief constable of Shropshire during the First World War, (fn. 142) died in 1918 and was succeeded by his daughter Joyce Stackhouse who, in 1923, married R. C. Fullerton-Smith (d. 1970); (fn. 143) in 1941 they assumed the name Acton in lieu of Fullerton-Smith. In 1966 Mrs. Acton passed the lordship of the manor to their son T. S. Acton, (fn. 144) the lord in 1991.
Thomas Acton (d. 1537) had a chief house at Acton Scott (fn. 145) which was probably the predecessor of Acton Scott Hall, standing north-east of the church. The Hall is a double- pile brick house of two and a half storeys built c. 1600. The entrance front on the south was of three bays and symmetrical, with a central door flanked by broad bay windows rising through two storeys. Service rooms occupied a rear basement. In 1672 it was taxed on 10 hearths. (fn. 146) Between 1807 and c. 1820, after having long been occupied by tenant farmers, the Hall was repaired and modernized, at least partly to plans by Joseph Bromfield. Blue roofing slates replaced the old stone ones, the chimneys were rebuilt, and stone was used in place of brick in replacement windows and for coping around the top of the building. Re-ordering of the rooms necessitated the removal of the main entrance to a porch built on the west side of the Hall, the creation of a new main staircase and the insertion of back stairs, the addition of a dining room on the east side of the Hall, and the construction of new service rooms. (fn. 147) Some of those service rooms were removed c. 1961-2. (fn. 148)
In the 18th century there was a bowling green to the south, a formal garden to the east, and the kitchen garden and Edward Acton's orchard to the north. (fn. 149) Between 1807 and c. 1820 new gardens were laid out and the Hall's surrounds were planted up with thousands of evergreens. (fn. 150) 'American' plants were introduced in 1811-12, (fn. 151) and by 1820 there was a rock garden (fn. 152) in an old quarry 300 m. south-west of the Hall, where Frances Stackhouse Acton later reconstructed part of the hypocaust from the Roman villa which she excavated in 1844. (fn. 153)
George Hill sold a freehold called THE TOWER to Charles Foxe (d. 1590) of Bromfield; Foxe left it to his youngest son Henry, (fn. 154) who in 1631 sold it to the tenant Richard Baldwin. (fn. 155) Baldwin mortgaged it in 1635 to Thomas Higgins, (fn. 156) whose son Thomas (kt. 1663) (fn. 157) became owner c. 1655. (fn. 158) Sir Thomas died c. 1685 (fn. 159) and in 1694 his children sold the Tower to Sir Edward Acton, lord of the manor. (fn. 160)
The field called the Tower Yard is just north of the church. (fn. 161) The Tower was apparently occupied in the mid 17th century by the Baldwins (fn. 162) but later abandoned, and its ruins were quarried in 1790. (fn. 163) It was a stone building c. 17 ft. square internally with projections, one of them a fireplace, on three sides. Its walls were c. 3 ft. thick. (fn. 164) Presumably it was either the chamber end of a disappeared hall or, less probably, a tower house. Parallels, especially in Shropshire, are hard to find. (fn. 165)
The farm later known as OAKWOOD was identified in the 19th century with property sold in the 1590s by Thomas Rawlins to William Littleton of Little Stretton. (fn. 166) On Littleton's death in 1605 his estate included a cottage and 85 a. in Acton Scott, Oakwood, and Mowsley. (fn. 167) Before 1629 his nephew William Littleton had sold the farm to John Thynne (d. c. 1648), (fn. 168) whose family sold it in 1684 to Samuel Powell of Church Stretton. (fn. 169) By 1776 Oakwood farm was part of the manorial estate (fn. 170) and the farmhouse had probably been rebuilt in brick. (fn. 171)
By c. 1600 the Lewis family owned two free holds in the parish: a farm known later as Little Oakwood, and a farm at Henley, whose house (a stone building partly of 1719) (fn. 172) was known in the 20th century as Henley Cottages. (fn. 173) In 1743 those properties passed to Penryn Lewis's nephew Edmund Breeze (d. c. 1772), who left the Henley farm to his daughter Margaret, wife of Thomas Marson, and Little Oakwood to his grandson Samuel Thomas. Samuel's brother John sold both farms to John Stackhouse in 1808. Thereafter they descended with the manorial estate. (fn. 174) Little Oakwood Farm, a small 16th- or 17th-century building refronted in the mid 19th century, was sold without farm land in 1983 and much extended in 1985. (fn. 175)
Eadric (Edric) held ALCASTON in 1066. In 1086 Roger of Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury, held the manor in chief and Helgot held it of him. (fn. 176) After Earl Robert's forfeiture in 1102 (fn. 177) Helgot's heirs may have held the manor in chief. (fn. 178)
Alcaston was among the manors once Helgot's which passed by inheritance or enfeoffment to the Girros family, and Robert de Girros (d. c. 1190) was recorded as lord of Alcaston. (fn. 179) When, c. 1251, the Girros estate was divided between coheirs, Alcaston passed to Walter of Hopton. (fn. 180) By then, however, that was a mesne lordship, and in 1255 Vivian of Rossall was the terre tenant, holding Alcaston of his father Thomas of Rossall. (fn. 181) After 1259 Vivian apparently sold the manor to John FitzAlan (II) who died holding Alcaston under Sir Walter of Hopton in 1267. By 1272, however, while a third of the manor was claimed in dower by Isabel FitzAlan, Vivian's son Raymond was lord, apparently having been re-enfeoffed therein. (fn. 182) About 1284 Raymond 'of Alcaston' held Alcaston as ½ knight's fee under Richard FitzAlan, called tenant in chief. (fn. 183) The Rossalls' terre tenancy had apparently lapsed by 1302 when Richard, earl of Arundel, was found to have held Alcaston of Walter of Hopton. (fn. 184) The manor remained in the FitzAlans' hands until the earl of Arundel's forfeiture in 1397. (fn. 185) In 1398 it was granted for life to the king's harbinger Thomas Sy, (fn. 186) but was later restored to the FitzAlans: Beatrice, countess of Arundel, died seised of it in 1439. (fn. 187)
By 1453 Alcaston was held by William Burley of Broncroft, (fn. 188) and it probably descended thereafter with the share of Munslow held from 1470 by the Lytteltons: in 1504 Joan Lyttelton was said to hold Alcaston of the earl of Shrewsbury. (fn. 189)
John Lyttelton may have sold Alcaston manor between 1507 and 1532 to Humphrey Ludlow, (fn. 190) although an interest in Alcaston and Henley was sold in 1552 by the earl of Oxford to John Stringfellow. (fn. 191) Ludlow's daughter and heir Elizabeth (d. 1575) married Humphrey Hill (d. 1585) of Court of Hill (in Burford), from whom Alcaston passed to their third son George. George Hill's son and heir Thomas died young and Alcaston passed to Thomas's cousin (fn. 192) Thomas Hill (d. 1656) of Court of Hill, who married Mary, daughter and heir of William Nesse of Acton Woodhouse. Their son Thomas Hill (d. 1702) was succeeded by his son the Revd. Nesse Hill (d. 1715), probably followed by Nesse's son Thomas (d.s.p. 1720). Thomas's brother Nesse was in possession by 1721 and died in 1732, being followed by his son Thomas (d. 1780) and grandson George Nesse Hill (d. 1830). G. N. Hill was succeeded by his brother William Nesse Hill, lord in 1846. Hill may have been succeeded by his younger brother the Revd. Thomas Hill, (fn. 193) but in 1853 a trustee for Joseph Loxdale Warren (d. 1888) bought the manor from mortgagees. (fn. 194) No mention of manorial rights was made when the estate was broken up and offered for sale after the death of J. L. Warren's son and namesake in 1909. (fn. 195)
Manor Farm incorporates part of a large and complex timber framed house, perhaps partly of c. 1580 (fn. 196) and taxed on six hearths in 1672; (fn. 197) the eastern part was removed c. 1840. (fn. 198)
MOAT FARM, reputedly a home of Reynold Grey, earl of Kent (d. 1573), was later owned by John Baldwin (fl. 1642-54). (fn. 199) About 1655 it passed to Edward Baugh (fn. 200) (fl. 1672). (fn. 201) Lancelot Baugh (fl. 1757), perhaps Edward's son and heir, (fn. 202) left as heir a daughter Harriet, wife of the Revd. Lewis Maxey, whose trustees sold the farm to the trustees of Ralph Benson of Lutwyche (in Rushbury). (fn. 203) The farm, 205 a. in 1839, (fn. 204) was sold in the later 19th century by the Bensons and was part of the Warren estate offered for sale in 1913. (fn. 205)
Moat Farm stands on a platform c. 50 m. in diameter within a medieval moat, probably once square. (fn. 206) The house, principally of brick and including some diaper work on the front of the former northern wing, is probably later 17thcentury and may be that taxed on eight hearths in 1672. (fn. 207) It was much altered in the 19th and 20th centuries. (fn. 208)
In 1553 John Stringfellow sold his moiety of a farm to John James, who in 1556 bought the other half from John Lyttelton. John James the younger was of Alcaston in 1623. William James owned the farm in 1644 and 1675, perhaps being succeeded by his son William and he, perhaps, by John James (fl. 1711). In 1714 John James sold his Alcaston property to Benjamin James, (fn. 209) who in turn sold it to Richard Ward of Harton in 1726. (fn. 210) The farm, like the Wards' Harton property, (fn. 211) was owned in the mid 19th century by Thomas Dunne. (fn. 212) The Dunnes sold it (c. 115 a.) in 1854 to J. L. Warren's trustee and it was incorporated in Alcaston Manor farm. (fn. 213)
William James's house, taxed on four hearths in 1672, (fn. 214) was timber framed and had a jettied first floor. (fn. 215) It stood on the east side of Alcaston. (fn. 216) It was demolished in the 1930s and farm workers' houses were built on the site. (fn. 217)
In 1086 Acton was rated at 3 hides, Alcaston at one. Both manors had enough land for four ploughs: at Acton there were three, worked by tenants; at Alcaston there were two, one in demesne and one worked by the tenants. (fn. 218)
In the Middle Ages there were probably three sets of fields in the parish, for Acton Scott, Alcaston, and Henley. At Acton Scott where, in 1278, a sixth of the manor had included 2½ virgates of land, 6 a. of meadow, and 60 a. of wood, (fn. 219) extensive open-field land survived in three fields in the early 17th century. (fn. 220) Southeast of the village Burr or Burgh field extended to Moor brook, while south-west of the village was Church field, perhaps also known as the field towards Henley. (fn. 221) The third field, Ryall field, adjoined the church, perhaps to the north-west. Inclosure, probably piecemeal, was occurring in the mid 17th century, (fn. 222) although one or two quillets in Burr field still survived in 1808. (fn. 223) The names and locations of Alcaston's fields (fn. 224) are unknown; inclosure there was probably 150 years earlier than at Acton Scott. (fn. 225) Open fields survived longest at Henley. In 1776 Back field lay north-east of Henley, Little Henley field abutted the south-west side of Henley common, and Henley Common field was north of Henley with Lower field beyond it. (fn. 226) All were inclosed between 1792 and 1820. (fn. 227)
Acton Scott, Henley, and Alcaston were all in the Long forest until 1301. (fn. 228) Acton Scott manor had a hay in 1086. (fn. 229) It probably lay in the northern half of the manor, which in the Middle Ages and later was occupied by an extensive common wood, probably alluded to in the manor's name. (fn. 230) In the Middle Ages the wood was usually referred to as Oakwood, (fn. 231) though by 1589 (fn. 232) its southern part was sometimes distinguished as Castle Hill. It may have been those woods which in 1578 supplied 1,500 oaks to build Whitehall in Shrewsbury. (fn. 233) In 1811 the eastern portion of the common was called Acton Bank. (fn. 234) Cattle and sheep were pastured in the woods in the later 16th century, (fn. 235) and as late as 1657 mast was gathered in Oakwood. (fn. 236) By 1776, however, few trees remained, (fn. 237) and Oakwood was probably much reduced from its original extent. (fn. 238) The remaining common, c. 185 a. then called Hawkwood rather than Oakwood, (fn. 239) was inclosed in 1811. (fn. 240)
A second common, the triangular Henley common, lay on the southern boundary of Acton Scott manor. (fn. 241) It, like the adjoining hamlet, probably took its name from a former wood. (fn. 242) The common was noticed as Henley heath in 1695. (fn. 243) In the later 18th century it was intercommoned by Henley and Alcaston. (fn. 244) Proposals before 1821 to inclose it were opposed by the lord of Alcaston manor, (fn. 245) and it survives as a 16-a. common. (fn. 246)
Alcaston's wood, mentioned in 1235, (fn. 249) covered the scarp of Wenlock Edge along the manor's south-eastern boundary. There was assarting in the manor in the Middle Ages. (fn. 250) Some time before 1692 (fn. 251) the wood was inclosed and in 1839 the three principal Alcaston landowners each had a share of it. (fn. 252) In the early 19th century some at least was coppiced, with cordwood being coaled for the Bringewood (Herefs.) ironworks. (fn. 253)
When Nesse Hill died at Alcaston in the spring of 1676 he had corn (worth £5 17s. 6d.), wheat (£2 5s.), barley (£2), oats (£5 1s. 8d.), and peas (£1 16s.). Stock comprised 6 oxen, 25 cattle, a horse, c. 57 sheep, and a few pigs. (fn. 256)
Clover, vetches, and turnips were all grown on the Acton Scott demesne by 1753, (fn. 257) together with wheat, grey peas, and especially muncorn. (fn. 258) Hops too may have been tried at some stage. (fn. 259) In the 1750s, as later, lime (at least some coming from Blackwood in Eaton-under-Heywood) was used and allowances made to tenants for its use. (fn. 260) Demesne livestock in 1755 included enough sheep to supply 26 st. of wool, sent to Shrewsbury, (fn. 261) although in 1775 Home farm had just 22 sheep, together with 34 cattle (including a milking herd of 8), 20 pigs, 3 yoke of working oxen, and 6 wagon horses. (fn. 262) Its land in 1776 (fn. 263) comprised 86 a. arable, 139 a. pasture, and 44 a. meadow. Whether at that date demesne stock was ever put on Oakwood common, which began 100 m. north of Home farm, is unknown. In 1776 in Acton Scott manor as a whole, excluding commons and woods, 37 per cent of the land was arable, 48 per cent pasture, and 15 per cent meadow. Most farms were fairly large: the Home farm and Acton Scott and Church farms were 220-270 a., Henley farm 164 a., and Oakwood (or Hawkwood) farm 76 a.
Lords of Acton Scott manor invested in improved farm buildings in the 18th century. Edward Acton built Church Farm in coursed stone in 1732 and John Stackhouse built a barn there in 1798. (fn. 264) In the 1760s Edward Acton's nephew and namesake, lord 1747-75, was probably much involved in the running of his estate. In the 1760s the Home farm buildings were largely rebuilt in brick with elaborate stone details including quoins, coping stones, and kneelers with finials, and the farmyard at Henley was also rebuilt but with local stone. At the end of his life Acton may also have built Oakwood Farm. (fn. 265) He had a keen practical interest in arboriculture, especially in apple trees, (fn. 266) and between 1755 (when he began grafting experiments) and 1775 hundreds of apple, and some pear, trees were grafted (many apparently by Acton himself) and planted in closes, hedgerows, and cottage gardens. He gave dozens of others to relations, friends, and tenants. Large numbers of ash, poplar, and willow were raised from sets ('pitchers'), and in 1775 Acton gave c. 6,000 willow sets of different sorts to his neighbour Richard Wilding, of Ragdon. Acton also planted fir, larch, Spanish chestnut, elm, beech, walnut, and lime around the manor, and established a plantation of Scots fir on Oakwood common in 1771.
About 1792 the demesne was reduced to 28 a. and the manor's farms reorganized, (fn. 267) the first of many improvements undertaken in John Stackhouse's time and more especially after 1807, when his son T. P. Stackhouse took over the estate, until the later 1820s. (fn. 268) Much of the new land inclosed from Oakwood common in 1811 (fn. 269) was put into Oakwood farm, which also absorbed Mowsley farm (23 a.) on the northern edge of the parish. (fn. 270) By 1820 Henley's open fields had been inclosed and the owners of freehold strips remaining in them bought out. The only other sizeable freehold in 1776, Little Oakwood farm, was also bought. (fn. 271) Field boundaries were altered throughout the parish to form more regular closes, drainage was undertaken, meadows floated, and a field barn (fn. 272) built in the northern part of Acton Scott farm. Extensive improvements were made to farmhouses, cottages, and roads. (fn. 273) Finally, in conjunction with work on the Hall and grounds, (fn. 274) all woodland in the parish, previously let with the individual farms, was brought into demesne. Much replanting was done especially on Castle Hill and around the Hall, 20,500 seedlings, including larch and fir, being bought 1812-14. (fn. 275)
From c. 1807, when T. P. Stackhouse went to live at Acton Scott, (fn. 276) oxen ceased to be used. (fn. 277) Over the next two decades new stock was introduced, presumably at least in part owing to the influence of Stackhouse's fatherin-law T. A. Knight, the celebrated Herefordshire breeder of Hereford cattle. (fn. 278) New breeds and types included a Merino ram (1810), twelve Merino-Ryeland ewes (1812), and ten Hereford ewes (1810); a Hereford bull and two half-bred Herefords (1812); three Welsh heifers and a Welsh ox (1813); a Chinese sow and boar (1815); and an Indian heifer in 1829. (fn. 279) By 1810 a winnowing machine had been bought, (fn. 280) and by 1815 a turnip cutter and a straw cutter. (fn. 281) Corn was perhaps threshed at Church Farm, where the tenant William Parker had a threshing machine by 1811. (fn. 282) Cereals in hand in 1813 were 150 bu. of oats (worth £37), 125 bu. of barley (£44), and 80 bu. of wheat (£48). There were also 45 tons of hay (£135). (fn. 283) Trefoil, clover, and turnips were fodder crops. (fn. 284) The ground was limed, (fn. 285) and pasture was pared and burnt, (fn. 286) and in 1818 an area of peat near Henley common was set on fire and allowed to burn for several months to provide potash-rich ash. (fn. 287) In 1821 the Acton Scott estate reduced rents by as much as 25 per cent because of the agricultural depression, (fn. 288) and later in the decade allowances were made for drainage.
In 1793 labourers in the parish (fn. 289) earned 5s. a week in summer and 3s. in winter, at all times with meat and drink. Most kept pigs, and many or all of the farmers supplied them with milk. They bought cheese, but butter, meat, and beer were beyond them. Hemp may still have been spun and woven, as it had been in the 1750s. (fn. 290) Half a dozen of the cottagers had a field or two, others just a garden; they paid up to £2 a year, though some owed only an amercement of 2s. 6d. In the early 19th century the Acton Scott estate prepared ground for tree planting by letting the poor grow potatoes on it. (fn. 291)
In 1838 arable occupied 635 a. (36 per cent of the parish), pasture 725 a. (41 per cent), meadow 200 a. (12 per cent), and woodland 180 a. (11 per cent). About half of the arable, on heavy soil, was worked on a five-course fallow-wheat-oats-clover-clover rotation; the rest, on the shales and gravels in the north, was turnip soil used in a four-course wheatturnips-barley-clover tillage reminiscent of Norfolk husbandry. (fn. 292)
The amount of arable, declining by 1838, continued to fall over the next 130 years, especially at the expense of grass for sheep. (fn. 293) The late 20th century saw a modest resurgence in cereal cultivation. Past farming practices were revived on a small scale when, in 1975, the county council took a lease of the Home farm buildings and 23 a. and opened Acton Scott Working Farm Museum (from 1990 the Acton Scott Historic Working Farm). (fn. 294)
Acton Scott manor had a mill in 1278. (fn. 295) It may have stood north or east of the hall where, in the 18th century and later, there was a chain of fish ponds between the village and Hatton pool. (fn. 296) Alcaston had a water mill in 1302. (fn. 297)
Sources: P.R.O., MAF 68/143, no. 20; /1340, no. 6; /3880,Salop. no. 216; /4945, no. 216.
Limestone was increasingly quarried for building stone in the 18th century, for instance from Oxstile quarry 0.5 km. west of the church and from near Church Farm for Wood Acton. (fn. 298) Stone may also have been got for slates in the later 18th century. (fn. 299) Bricks were burnt in the parish in 1758, (fn. 300) as they probably had been 150 years earlier for Acton Scott Hall. (fn. 301)
A smithy north of Acton Scott village, open by 1766, closed c. 1966. (fn. 302)
The parish clerk Edwin Bore (fl. 1812-25) was a well known maker of spinning wheels. (fn. 303)
Records of eleven sessions of Acton Scott court baron survive from between 1634 and 1695, (fn. 304) and a court was supposedly still held c. 1730. (fn. 305) A court baron for Alcaston was occasionally held at Alcaston Manor between 1793 and 1846. (fn. 306)
In 1709-10 there was a poor's stock of £20 10s. and £4 5s. was disbursed during the year to three people and an apprentice. Over the next 30 years the stock and expenditure gradually rose. A cottage was built for Frances Warde in 1738-9, and a nurse was paid in 1740-1. (fn. 307) By the end of the century £30-£40 was spent annually, and the farmers took in children. (fn. 308) Expenditure rose to £115 in 1802-3; it was used to give out relief to 21 adults and 6 children. (fn. 309) Expenditure reached a peak of £172 in 1818-19. (fn. 310)
There were two parish constables in 1793. (fn. 311)
The parish was in Church Stretton poor-law union 1836-1930, (fn. 312) Church Stretton rural sanitary district 1872-94, Church Stretton rural district 1894-1934, Ludlow R.D. 1934-74, and South Shropshire district from 1974. (fn. 313)
The church existed by 1252. The living was a rectory in the patronage of the lords of Acton Scott, rights being disputed between coparceners from time to time. Disputes and uncertainties occasionally caused their rights to lapse: (fn. 314) Hugh of Newton, presented by three patrons evidently towards the end of 1277, was actually collated to the rectory by lapse in 1278. (fn. 315) In later centuries turns were occasionally conveyed (fn. 316) and in 1934 the lady of the manor conveyed the advowson to the diocesan patronage board. (fn. 317) The living was held in plurality with Hope Bowdler 1939-46 (fn. 318) and was then vacant, local retired clergy serving the cure, (fn. 319) until 1951 when the king presented through lapse. (fn. 320) From 1961 the patronage was suspended and the cure served by curates (or priests) in charge, some of them incumbents of nearby parishes. (fn. 321)
In the Middle Ages the living was worth c. £5. (fn. 322) In 1589 the glebe comprised a house, c. 35 a. of grassland, and rights of common. (fn. 323) The living was worth £42 c. 1708, (fn. 324) and £210 in 1825, (fn. 325) the tithes in the later 18th and earlier 19th century usually being let to the farmers, although a modus in lieu of hay tithes was paid from Alcaston. (fn. 326) In 1840 the tithes were commuted to £238 a year. (fn. 327) The living was worth £233 gross in 1885. (fn. 328) The 61-a. Glebe farm lay west of the rectory and by 1776 was enclosed by a ring fence. (fn. 329) The farm was sold in 1947. (fn. 330) The stone farmhouse, perhaps created in the early 19th century from 18th-century farm buildings, was probaby embellished by Mrs. Stackhouse Acton in the mid 19th century. (fn. 331)
In 1589 the parsonage comprised a 'mansion house' and outbuildings. (fn. 332) John Glascott, curate from 1772 and, after an interval away, rector 1781-1825, improved both the house-'very substantial, but small'-and the glebe before 1793. (fn. 333) In 1826 the patron paid £700 virtually to 're-erect' the house 'in the English style of ancient cottage architecture' to plans by John Carline. (fn. 334) The parsonage was sold with two acres in 1966. (fn. 335)
The names of known 13th- and 14th-century rectors suggest that most were local men; (fn. 336) none is known to have been a graduate. No institutions are recorded between 1408 (fn. 337) and 1547, (fn. 338) during which time the cure was perhaps served from surrounding parishes. To the church's two bells of the 1350s a third was added in the 15th century; they form one of only two (complete) medieval rings in the county. (fn. 339) A light in the church was endowed before the Reformation. (fn. 340)
A chapel at Alcaston was recorded in 1256 when its chaplain was outlawed for murder. (fn. 341) The chapel escaped subjection to Acton Scott church after an inquiry into its status in 1318 (fn. 342) and was a 'free chapel' in 1350 and when last mentioned in 1399. The advowson belonged to the terre tenant of Alcaston in 1259 and still in 1399 when, after the earl of Arundel's forfeiture, the chapel was in the hands of a royal warden. (fn. 343) The living was a rectory in 1285 and still in 1350. (fn. 344) The chapel's site is unknown.
Several post-Reformation rectors were pluralists, including Roger Norncott, rector from 1567 (fn. 345) and also rector of Munslow and Hughley and prebendary of Hampton Bishop. (fn. 346) William Fosbrook, 1679-1726, the first known graduate rector of Acton Scott, (fn. 347) was vicar of Diddlebury 1676-1726 (fn. 348) and in 1716 lived at Corfton with his son Edward (not yet in holy orders) as his curate, catechizing and baptizing. There were then two Sunday services, one with a sermon, and communion was celebrated thrice yearly. (fn. 349)
John Fleming, rector from 1745, (fn. 350) employed a curate. (fn. 351) It was probably his son and namesake who obtained the living in 1756 after he resigned. (fn. 352) Dr. John Fleming, rector (d. 1780), was also vicar of Highley 1756-77 and a county magistrate from 1762. (fn. 353) In 1779, to escape creditors whose demands had already placed him in Shrewsbury gaol, he went as chaplain on the 74-gun Ajax. (fn. 354) By 1793 his successor John Glascott was preaching to a moderately sized congregation each Sunday and celebrating communion for c. 40 six times a year. (fn. 355) Townley Clarkson, 1825-33, had livings in Cambridgeshire, where he lived, and Suffolk. (fn. 356) Waties Corbett, rector 1833-c. 1856, was also an absentee, being perpetual curate of Longnor and Leebotwood and Hereford diocesan chancellor. (fn. 357) An organ was bought c. 1849, (fn. 358) and in 1851 there were usually 140 at morning service, 50 in the afternoon. (fn. 359) Corbett's curate in 1851, G. A. Magee, was himself rector from 1856 to c. 1896. (fn. 360)
The church of ST. MARGARET, so dedicated by the later 18th century, (fn. 361) comprises chancel, nave, north chapel, south porch, and west tower. The rubble stone fabric of chancel, nave, and tower is probably medieval, and features such as the south nave window, lights in the tower, and some bench ends may be late medieval, as may have been the former south door in the chancel. The nave roof is perhaps 16th- or early 17th-century, the chancel roof mid 17th-century. The alter table too is 17th- century. The porch and probably the south door are of 1722; (fn. 362) other work of that date probably included the insertion of new windows in the nave and chancel and the renewal of the south chancel door. The altar rails too may be c. 1722. (fn. 363)
In 1793 the chancel, separated from the nave by a timber and lath-and-plaster screen, contained five pews, some benches, and a psalm singers' table. The nave had 18 pews; one, perhaps that built by Edward Baugh c. 1665, was canopied. (fn. 364)
John Stackhouse (d. 1819), lord of Acton Scott, left £500 for a family pew, built in 1820 as a north aisle. (fn. 365) Also about then a new east window was put in the chancel, the tower was repaired and a vestry made in it, and the the church was ceiled. (fn. 366) Font, pulpit, reading desk, and screen may also be early 19th-century; there is a bier of 1825; and the west organ gallery is presumably of c. 1849. (fn. 367) The seating was increased in 1876, when the 'clerical seats' were carved by the rector and their finials by Mr. Hill. (fn. 368)
About 1897 the box pews were replaced by new benches and prayer desks; 17th- and 18thcentury panelling from the pews was re-used as a dado. The pulpit was moved from the north side of the nave to the south, and the font to near the south door. (fn. 369) Later changes were minor apart from the replacement of the south chancel door by a window c. 1929 (fn. 370) and the complete rebuilding of the gallery (to take a second-hand organ) in 1968. (fn. 371)
In 1717 a silver chalice and paten were given by the new squire and patron Edward Acton (d. 1747), (fn. 372) to whom there is a large wall monument, designed by William Baker, in the chancel. (fn. 373)
The registers are substantially complete from 1690. (fn. 374)
In 1793 children went to school in Hatton, Church Stretton, and Wistanstow, (fn. 375) but by 1819 the lord of Acton Scott was supporting a school for 25-30 pupils in a stone schoolhouse near Acton Scott Farm. (fn. 376)
In 1866 Mrs. Stackhouse Acton built an ornate timber framed school and teacher's house; she and her successors at the Hall supported it until 1949. (fn. 377) In 1873, attendance averaged 50, and the schoolroom accommodated 60, (fn. 378) later restricted to 50; (fn. 379) there was occasional overcrowding. (fn. 380) Government grant, earned by 1880, was reduced 1893-1900 owing to inadequate staffing. (fn. 381) The building was improved in the 1890s (fn. 382) and 1900s (fn. 383) and in 1921 and 1944. (fn. 384) From 1904 the county council paid the staff, renting the school and house from the managers. (fn. 385) The rector visited regularly and the annual diocesan scripture examinations were taken, (fn. 386) but only c. 1944 was the school designated a church school. (fn. 387) Briefly in 1941, when Liverpool evacuees came, infants were taught in the village hall kitchen. From 1936, except during the war, senior pupils attended Church Stretton woodwork and domestic science centres; in 1948 they transferred to Church Stretton Modern school (fn. 388) and in 1949 Acton Scott school became a county primary school. (fn. 389) There were 52 pupils in 1932 but only 27 by 1951 when the school closed, pupils going to Church Stretton or Wistanstow C.E. primary schools. (fn. 390)
In the early 1890s county council cookery classes were popular but horticulture classes were not. (fn. 391)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
John Mousell (fn. 392) left 5s. a year for the Acton Scott poor; in the late 18th century, as in the early 20th, income was accumulated until it sufficed to buy them bibles or prayer books. (fn. 393) By 1975 the charity had lapsed. (fn. 394)
In 1786 and later income from £56, of which £20 had been given by one Edward Acton, was used to buy coal. (fn. 395) In 1975 income was £3. (fn. 396) The charity may include proceeds of the sale of a cottage left to the parish in 1827. (fn. 397)