A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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The name Preston, the priests' tun, (fn. 1) may indicate ecclesiastical ownership of the vill before 1066. About 1280 Thomas Lyart was vicar of Wellington and rector of Preston chapel. (fn. 2) By 1336, whence institutions were regularly recorded, the independent status of Preston church was established. (fn. 3)
The advowson apparently descended with the manor, whose partition caused uncertainty over the exercise of turns. (fn. 4) From the earlier 18th century the right of presentation was held by Preston hospital and the Charltons. The Charlton family presented for one turn in three, last doing so in 1940. (fn. 5) When the rectory was united with the benefices of Kynnersley and Tibberton in 1978, patronage of the united benefice was vested in the patrons of the three former livings jointly. (fn. 6)
A proportion of the great tithes in Preston township was paid to the Wellington tithe owners. The amount due to St. John Charlton in respect of the rectorial tithes of Wellington was questioned in 1743. (fn. 7) A territorial apportionment was later made, possibly in the later 18th century. (fn. 8) In 1838 the township's tithes were commuted to £235 a year: the great tithes to £199 shared equally between St. John Chiverton Charlton and the rector; the small tithes to £36, those in Preston parish producing £23 for the rector, those in Wellington parish £13 for the vicar of Wellington. (fn. 9)
There were 24 a. of glebe in 1724, (fn. 10) 23 a. and a cottage in 1884, three cottages and some land having recently been sold. (fn. 11) In 1942 the War Department compulsorily purchased 16 a., (fn. 12) c. 9 a. remaining in 1981 as glebe. (fn. 13)
In 1743 the parsonage, a 'very poor' house, was let for £2. (fn. 14) Described in 1799 as a small thatched cottage, (fn. 15) it was a two-roomed baffle-entry farmhouse of two storeys with some internal subdivision, c. 10.36 × 5.79 metres overall. Outside was a four-bayed barn. In 1827 the parsonage was extended and modernized by W. T. Birds, apparently the first resident rector for over a century. The old house was encased within a new brick rectory, which had over twice the floor space of the old, the rooms including two parlours downstairs and four bedrooms upstairs. (fn. 16) The rectory was sold in 1954 and became a private house. During the Second World War its cellars were designated the village's air-raid shelter. (fn. 17)
The living was valued at 60s. in 1535, (fn. 18) £24 in 1665, (fn. 19) £70 in 1799, (fn. 20) £198 in 1828-31 and 1871, and £231 in 1932. From 1900 or earlier the rector was usually chaplain of the hospital, with a stipend of £40 in 1917. (fn. 21)
Two medieval incumbents surnamed Preston may have been members of the family holding part of the manor. (fn. 22) Only one pre-Reformation rector is known to have been a graduate, the pluralist William Grinshill, 1422-8. (fn. 23) There was no pulpit in the church in 1576. (fn. 24) From the later 17th century, or earlier, the living was generally held in plurality. Samuel Pritchard, 1678-1714, (fn. 25) also held Eyton upon the Weald Moors. (fn. 26) William Sockett, 1714-?32, (fn. 27) also served the chapel at Wombridge although it was not a dependent chapelry of Preston. (fn. 28) Wombridge did not have rights of marriage until 1760 and largely relied on Preston and its incumbents until c. 1805. (fn. 29) Henry Wood, c. 1743-1795, (fn. 30) a pioneer of steam power, also held High Ercall and Kynnersley, (fn. 31) the latter living also being held by his curate (fn. 32) and successor at Preston, Richard Spearman, (fn. 33) 1795-1826. (fn. 34) In 1799 there was one service on Sundays, alternating mornings and evenings with Kynnersley; communion was celebrated quarterly and there were 20 communicants. (fn. 35)
W. T. Birds, 1826-61, (fn. 36) was also perpetual curate of Penley (Flints.). (fn. 37) In 1843 he instituted an additional service at the hospital for residents. (fn. 38) William Houghton, 1861-95, (fn. 39) wrote several books, mainly on natural history, (fn. 40) and was an authority on eastern languages, for which he was granted a civil list pension. (fn. 41) Between the 1890s and 1930s there were usually two Sunday services, although in the period 1910-17 three or four were normal. (fn. 42) In the early 20th century Preston was served by elderly rectors whose incumbencies were brief; some also held Kynnersley. In 1933 it was revealed that no churchwardens had been appointed for a number of years. (fn. 43) H. J. Moreton, 1947-74, held the living with that of Hadley. (fn. 44) In 1981 the weekly Sunday morning service at Preston had a congregation of c. 20. (fn. 45)
The church of ST. LAWRENCE, so called in 1871, (fn. 46) is of red brick with stone dressings, and consists of a chancel with north vestry, nave, and west tower. It replaced a church which was said c. 1736 to be beyond repair and so small that it would not contain more than half the inhabitants of Preston, (fn. 47) the population having recently increased with the opening of the hospital. Little is known of the earlier church except that it had a bell tower (perhaps built after 1553) and clock and was built at least partly of stone. In 1553 there were two small bells, a silver chalice, and a gilt paten. (fn. 48) The new church was built between 1739 and 1742, the nave and lower stages of the tower being of that date. (fn. 49) The keystone of the west doorway is inscribed 'T.H. 1739', Thomas Higgins being the churchwarden whose name appeared on the list of petitioners for a brief. (fn. 50) The tower contains two bells, one of 1715. (fn. 51) The plate is 18th-century and later. (fn. 52) The chancel and vestry were added in 1853; Preston hospital bore the expense of the chancel and of new pews at the east end of the nave for its widows and children. (fn. 53) The top stage of the tower may also be of that date. There was a west gallery containing a barrel organ and, in 1843, 30 seats for the poor. (fn. 54) The gallery was removed in a major restoration of 1905 when the pews and pulpit were rebuilt, incorporating much 18th-century panelling, and a new font was installed. (fn. 55)
The registers begin in 1693 and are complete thereafter. (fn. 56)