A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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WOMBRIDGE, LATER OAKENGATES
Communications, p. 284. Growth of Settlement, p. 285. Social and Cultural Activities, p. 289. Manor and Other Estates, p. 290. Economic History, p. 291. Local Government, p. 296. Public Services, p. 297. Churches, p. 298. Nonconformity, p. 301. Education, p. 302. Charities for the Poor, p. 306.
Wombridge parish developed out of the demesnes of the Augustinian priory of St. Leonard, founded c. 1135 in a clearing in Hadley wood. The area was the centre of one of the two bailiwicks of the royal forest of Mount Gilbert (or the Wrekin); like the centre of the other- Haughmond, also a monastic site - it was extraparochial. (fn. 1) The priory stood less than 1 km. north of Watling Street, which bisected the ancient parish. The parish extended to only 702 a. (fn. 2) Oakengates, a late medieval hamlet on its eastern edge, stood on Watling Street 4 km. east of Wellington.
Oakengates grew into a sizeable town in the mid 19th century, dwarfing the small settlement at Wombridge, and in 1895 Wombridge parish council tried, though unsuccessfully, to change the parish name to Oakengates. In 1898, however, Wombridge civil parish, conterminous with the ancient parish, was included in the new urban district of Oakengates, which also comprised Wrockwardine Wood C.P. (914 a.) and the new C.P.s of St. George's (129 a.) and Priorslee (584 a.). (fn. 3) In 1934 the U.D.'s component C.P.s were amalgamated into Oakengates C.P. At the same time small parts of the C.P.s of Hadley (at Trench), Wellington Rural (at Ketley Bank), and Shifnal (between Woodhouse colliery and Priorslee Hall) were added to Oakengates while a small part of Priorslee (Hollinswood) was transferred to Dawley U.D. (fn. 4) The area so formed contained 2,396 a. (fn. 5) Two small parts of Oakengates U.D and C.P., east of Hollinswood and south of Priorslee village, were included in the designated area of Dawley new town in 1963 (fn. 6) and were transferred to Dawley U.D. in 1966. (fn. 7) Oakengates was included in Telford new town in 1968 (fn. 8) and in the district of the Wrekin in 1974 when the U.D was abolished. (fn. 9)
The history of Wombridge parish and the growth of Oakengates town, treated in the present article, are inextricably bound up with the adjacent district of Priorslee (a remote corner of the manor and parish of Shifnal), where Wombridge priory built up an estate in the early Middle Ages. (fn. 10) Accordingly Priorslee's (fn. 11) industrial and urban involvement with Oakengates, with the gradual severance of its links with Shifnal, have formed complementary themes in modern times.
The bounds of Wombridge ancient parish appear to have been those to which Wombridge priory demesne had expanded by c. 1269. The western boundary partly followed Springwell brook, whose ancient course was largely obliterated by industry. (fn. 12) The other boundaries apparently did not follow major natural or manmade features. Priorslee lies almost 3 km. southeast of Wombridge church, and is bounded to the north by Watling Street. (fn. 13)
The area here treated, extending c. 3 km. from north to south and c. 3 km. from east to west, lies near the northern edge of the east Shropshire coalfield. Oakengates itself lies at c. 120 metres above O.D. in a shallow valley, flanked by the higher ground of Ketley Bank to the south and St. George's to the east, both over 150 metres above O.D. North of Oakengates the ground falls away towards the Weald Moors, to c. 75 metres above O.D. near Trench Pool. The location of the 'lake-ridge' referred to in the name Wombridge (fn. 14) is uncertain.
Oakengates town stands on a band of boulder clay and sand and gravel overlying the Middle Coal Measures. The coal measures outcrop either side of the band: to the south-west between Hartshill, Ketley Bank, and Hollinswood, and to the north-east between Newfield Farm and Snedshill. The Greyhound and Lightmoor faults cross the Coal Measures from south-west to north-east; south-east of the faults, on the eastern side of the dividing band of clay and gravel, the workable coal seams are overlain by the carboniferous sandstones, marl, and mudstones of the Hadley and Coalport formations. (fn. 15)
A hoard of 368 silver coins, deposited c. 1646, was unearthed at Priorslee in 1982 during construction of the M 54 motorway. (fn. 16)