A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES.
Two licensed alesellers traded in Lilleshall in the period 1615-19, (fn. 1) and in the mid 18th century there were two public houses. (fn. 2) One, known as the Red Lion by 1794, (fn. 3) stood on the west side of the street, south of the church. (fn. 4) It probably closed in the 1840s. (fn. 5) The Red House, so called by 1822, stood north of the village on the Wellington- Newport road, and in 1979 was still the only public house conveniently placed for the villagers; the 3rd duke of Sutherland (1861-92) had allowed no other to open. (fn. 6)
There was a licensed aleseller in Muxton 1618- 19. (fn. 7) By the mid 18th century there were two public houses. That on the south side of the Wellington-Newport road in 1783 (fn. 8) apparently closed c. 1807. The other, on the north side in 1804, moved c. 1806 to an adjacent site, (fn. 9) which was occupied in 1979 by the Sutherland Arms, known before 1856 (fn. 10) as the Bush (1822) or Holly Bush (1851). (fn. 11)
Donnington had three licensed alesellers in 1619. (fn. 12) In 1775 there was one, evidently near what was later School Road; (fn. 13) known as the Field by 1822, the house seems to have closed in the 1830s. (fn. 14) Another, east of the corner of School Road and Queen's Road in 1979, was first licensed between 1828 and 1839 (fn. 15) and known as the Bell by 1856. (fn. 16) The Boot (closed 1878) and the Flag stood nearby in the 19th century. (fn. 17) The White House, formerly part of Donnington Farm, opened during the Second World War, (fn. 18) and the Champion Jockey, Wrekin Drive, c. 1954. (fn. 19)
From the late 18th century friendly societies were formed in the parish. One, at the Red Lion, was formed in 1786 and still existed in 1844. (fn. 20) A Donnington Wood club lent £100 in 1792-3 towards the restoration of the parish church and was still active in 1808-9. (fn. 21) A friendly society or 'dividend club' was meeting at John Pearce's public house (later the Bush) by 1800 (fn. 22) and existed in 1841. (fn. 23) In 1802-3 there were said to be two friendly societies in the parish, with 331 members, (fn. 24) and some 560 people were said to be members of friendly societies meeting in the parish 1812-15. (fn. 25) The Lilleshall Co.'s employees had a miners' sick fund, formed in 1802, and a club for the relief of colliers and miners, formed in 1823 and active until the passing of the Work men's Compensation Act, 1907. (fn. 26) Other societies and lodges occurred in the mid 19th century: Donnington Amicable Society, meeting at the Field 1834-52, (fn. 27) the 'Marquis of Stafford' lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (Manchester Unity) meeting at Muxton from 1845, (fn. 28) and the Donnington Friendly Society 1847-52. (fn. 29) The Shropshire Provident Society's Lilleshall branch, formed 1853, (fn. 30) was dissolved with the parent body in the 1940s. (fn. 31)
Another form of providence was encouraged by the Lilleshall Savings Bank, opened in 1818 (fn. 32) at the instance of James Loch, (fn. 33) following the exceptional pauperism of 1817. The marquess of Stafford was its patron. (fn. 34) Intended for small savings of the 'industrious classes', (fn. 35) the bank proved popular and successful. It closed in 1892. (fn. 36) Smaller savings were encouraged by the Lilleshall Sunday School Savings Fund (or Lilleshall Penny Savings Bank) (fn. 37) and the Donnington Wood Penny Bank. (fn. 38)
More specialized in their benefits were the Lilleshall Children's Clothing Club, (fn. 39) the Lilleshall Female Clothing Club, (fn. 40) the Duchess of Sutherland's Lilleshall Penny Club, (fn. 41) (merged c. 1863 with another club to form the Lilleshall and Sheriffhales Clothing Club), (fn. 42) the Donnington Wood Female Clothing Club, (fn. 43) and the Donnington Wood School Clothing Club. (fn. 44)
Nineteenth-century societies with social and cultural aims included the Lilleshall Church Missionary Association, (fn. 45) the Lilleshall Young Men's Improvement Society, (fn. 46) the Lilleshall Temperance Savings Society, (fn. 47) the Lilleshall Temperance Deposit Club, (fn. 48) and the Lilleshall Musical Society. (fn. 49) The local temperance movement was led in the 19th century by Miss E. D. H. Battersby (fn. 50) and resulted in the opening of an iron coffee tavern and refreshment room in Wellington Road, Donnington, converted by 1980 into a house and shop. (fn. 51)
The Donnington Wood Mechanics' Institution was established in 1851, many books being given by the 2nd duke of Sutherland. Lectures on popular subjects were planned. (fn. 52) In 1867 a mechanics' institute was founded at Donnington, mainly at the expense of the 3rd duke and C. C. Walker. (fn. 53) It stood in Wellington Road, opposite the Midland Iron Works, and in 1891 had a library (c. 1,500 volumes), reading room, and recreation room, and over 700 members. It was demolished c. 1950. In 1891 science and art classes were held in the works dining hall. (fn. 54) By 1875 St. George's Reading Room and Institute had been established (fn. 55) and in 1876 it was amalgamated with St. George's Granville Literary Institute, for which the Lilleshall Co. provided accommodation at the Granville Hospital (in Wrockwardine Wood township). (fn. 56) In 1899 a new St. George's Literary Institute and Library was erected near the church, on a site given by the 4th duke. It included a billiard room. (fn. 57) From 1927 the county council rented its reading room as a cookery classroom for schools. A smaller reading room was created on the first floor (fn. 58) and was used by the county library as a local centre until 1956. (fn. 59) In 1980 billiards was still played at the institute, and the Good Neighbours, an old people's club serving St. George's and Priorslee, also met there. (fn. 60) The county council's Donnington branch library opened in 1960. (fn. 61)
In 1891 the 500-seat dining hall at the Midland Iron Works was used for concerts and entertainments, (fn. 62) and many functions were held at Donnington Wood vicarage until the Donnington Wood Institute opened in 1901 (fn. 63) near St. Matthew's church. From about 1934 the institute was used only for church purposes. (fn. 64) In 1963 it was greatly enlarged, (fn. 65) and in 1980, as St. Matthew's Hall, was still used. The James Memorial Hall, Lilleshall, administered by the parochial church council, was built c. 1937. (fn. 66) By 1947 Lilleshall Men's Institute had its own premises, (fn. 67) a converted building in Limekiln Lane, but by 1967 it was little used (fn. 68) and the trustees agreed to lease it to the Lilleshall youth club. (fn. 69) In 1980 weekly bingo was played there, but the youth club had recently closed. (fn. 70) The Turreff Hall, Donnington, was built during the Second World War by the American army (fn. 71) and later adopted by the county council. (fn. 72) In 1962 it was the only undenominational hall in Donnington. (fn. 73) By 1979, however, it had become a county library store. There was then a shortage of public meeting places in Donnington, (fn. 74) despite the opening of a community centre by Lilleshall parish council in 1975; (fn. 75) many organizations had been formed at Donnington since 1939 as a result of the C.O.D. development. Among those with their own premises were the Silver Threads Club (for old people), the Coddon Sports and Social Club, the Sea Cadet Corps, and the British Legion. (fn. 76) By 1975 Donnington Wood Working Men's Club also had its own premises. (fn. 77)
Lilleshall park was created for deer hunting, presumably in the Middle Ages. Deer remained there in the early 18th century, (fn. 78) and in 1780 foxes were hunted in Donnington wood. (fn. 79) Sports other than hunting claimed adherents, and a narrow field north-east of the abbey was known, perhaps facetiously, as the bowling alley in 1598. (fn. 80) Lilleshall cricket ground was opened c. 1890, (fn. 81) and in 1980 was controlled by Lilleshall Cricket Club. In 1980 Lilleshall Tennis Club had courts next to the cricket field. At St. George's there was a recreation ground by 1883, when annual athletic sports were first held there. (fn. 82) A public recreation ground near St. George's church, on a site provided by the Lilleshall Co., (fn. 83) was opened in 1918; (fn. 84) it soon had the best athletics track in the county. (fn. 85) St. George's had one of the county's leading football clubs. It was formed by 1877, (fn. 86) and by 1921 was based at St. George's recreation ground. (fn. 87) In 1980 the ground also provided for bowls, tennis, and hockey, but no longer had a running track. Donnington Wood recreation ground was established c. 1934 by the Miners' Welfare Fund (fn. 88) and acquired for public use by Wellington rural district council in 1957. (fn. 89) Tennis, bowls, and football were played there (fn. 90) and swimming pools and a games hall were added later. (fn. 91)
The Globe cinema, Donnington, opened for C.O.D. personnel during the Second World War. (fn. 92) It was open to the public in 1962 (fn. 93) but by 1979 had become a bingo hall. (fn. 94) The Little Theatre was opened in 1954 by the Donnington Garrison Operatic and Dramatic Society which still flourished there in 1979. (fn. 95) An annual fun fair (previously at Oakengates) began nearby c. 1980. (fn. 96)