A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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During the Middle Ages St. Leonard's priory presumably served the area that became Wombridge parish. No vicarage was endowed before the Dissolution, and afterwards the benefice (if there was one) seems to have been simply a donative and outside the bishop's ordinary jurisdiction. (fn. 1) It was evidently in the Crown's patronage until the earlier 17th century. Probably between 1621 and 1642 patronage was acquired by the Charltons with the impropriate tithes. In 1621 Francis Charlton still owed the Crown the 'king's rent' of £2 6s. 8d. for the maintenance of a minister, (fn. 2) but before his death in 1642 he may have been allowing £20 a year to the cure. In 1656 his son was called patron and the old 'king's rent' was then retained by the Charltons. The patronage remained with the family, W. J. C. Charlton-Meyrick being patron in 1982. (fn. 3) From 1693 curates were licensed to the cure but there was no formal institution until the perpetual curacy became a vicarage in 1866 (fn. 4)
The first known minister was described as lector in 1609 and 1616. (fn. 5) There was no minister in 1656. (fn. 6) Before 1693 a minister built a house on the waste at Oakengates and lived there, but within a few years Francis Charlton (d. 1698) had let it to a lay tenant. (fn. 7) Nevertheless there was apparently glebe of 9 a. in the 1690s, (fn. 8) and in the early 18th century the curates of Wombridge received £5 from the Charltons and £3 from a legacy of James Rushbury (d. 1718), an agent of the family. (fn. 9) From that period there is evidence of regular services at Wombridge, perhaps interrupted in the 1770s; baptisms and burials are recorded from 1721, marriages are recorded from 1802. (fn. 10)
Between 1746 and 1841 augmentations of the living totalling £2,200 were made from Queen Anne's Bounty, that of £200 in 1841 meeting a benefaction of St. John C. Charlton. (fn. 11) The living, worth £82 in 1856, (fn. 12) was improved by c. £50 a year between 1864 and 1867 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from £1,000 of subscriptions and grants. In 1879 the living was worth £170. (fn. 13) It had risen to £200 by 1913 and £378 by 1932. (fn. 14) During the 19th and 20th centuries the area of the glebe fluctuated between 3 a. and 10½ a. (fn. 15)
In 1841 St. John C. Charlton gave a site for a benefice house, and there was one in 1851. (fn. 16) In 1884, however, the vicarage was said to be a former farmhouse. (fn. 17) A new vicarage was built next to the old one c 1982.
The earliest known ministers, Richard Wood (fl. 1609-16) and one Holmes (before 1693), lived in the parish (fn. 18) but Robert Bromhall, LL.D., lived at Hadley. When licensed in 1693, immediately after his ordination as deacon, Bromhall was aged c. 60; he was licensed as schoolmaster in the parish and from 1697 was also assistant curate in Dawley. (fn. 19) William Sockett, rector of Preston upon the Weald Moors from 1714, also served Wombridge from 1721. (fn. 20) William Laplain, Stephen Panting, and Joshua Gilpin, successive vicars of Wrockwardine, apparently served Wombridge for periods between 1743 and 1783. (fn. 21)
C. R. Cameron, perpetual curate 1808-56, was also perpetual curate of St. George's 1807-31. (fn. 22) Both he and his wife Lucy (1781-1858) (fn. 23) published numerous books and pamphlets of an improving nature, many illustrated with examples from the Oakengates area. In their works they frequently condemned self-indulgent and spendthrift miners, and in 1831 during the wages riots Cameron was active on behalf of the magistracy and yeomanry. At times the Camerons criticized standards of Methodist discipline and called in question the religious convictions of enthusiastic nonconformist preachers. (fn. 24) Cameron's successor, James Russell (1856-71), also published sermons and commentaries. (fn. 25)
The Lady chapel of the former priory church remained standing until 1756. There was no glass in its windows in the period 1693-8 and a repair brief was reputedly issued in 1723. The building was still in use c. 1741 but collapsed in 1756. (fn. 26) A brief was issued in 1757 and a new church was erected. Built of brick, with stone-dressed roundheaded windows, the church of ST. MARY AND ST. LEONARD comprised a nave and small west tower. It seated 200. In 1824 a further brief was issued and north and south transepts, both with galleries, were added to the eastern end of the nave, increasing the seating to 500. (fn. 27) There was also an eastern apse, which was removed with the galleries in a major restoration of 1869. (fn. 28)
Additions of 1869, designed by George Bidlake of Wolverhampton, included a chancel with south transept, an organ chamber and vestry on the north side, and north and south nave aisles. The church was also reseated, the tower raised, and the roof replaced. (fn. 29) A legacy of James Oliver (d. 1867) of Wellington, the son of a former incumbent, provided £900 of the cost. In 1859 and 1866 plate was given in memory of James's sister, mother-in-law, and nephew. There is one bell, of 1899. (fn. 30) Sir Thomas Meyrick gave ½ a. to extend the graveyard in 1898. (fn. 31)
The register of baptisms and burials begins in 1721, that of marriages in 1802. (fn. 32) Between the collapse of the old church in 1756 and the completion of the replacement most baptisms were at Priorslee. (fn. 33)
The new church of HOLY TRINITY, Oakengates, was built in 1854 and immediately assigned its own parish from the parishes of Wombridge and Shifnal. That part of Wombridge south of Priory Farm was put in the new parish, largely depriving Wombridge of both population and parish. Accordingly in 1859 the area north of Hartshill and Market Street, on the Watling Street, and west of Harts Bridge Road, was returned to Wombridge. (fn. 34) In 1854 patronage of the living was vested in the bishop of Lichfield, patron in 1982. (fn. 35)
In 1853 and 1855 the living, until 1868 a perpetual curacy, was endowed by grants and subscriptions and matching benefactions from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 36) In 1870 the living was worth £70, and in 1881 £97 18s. 2d. made up of £41 18s. from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, £30 11s. 7d. from Queen Anne's Bounty, and £25 8s. 7d. in fees and offerings. (fn. 37) Further grants were made in 1885, 1886, and 1887, (fn. 38) and in 1892 the living was worth £131. (fn. 39) Grants were again made in 1908 and 1910, (fn. 40) and in 1922 the living was valued at £300, in 1932 £308 net. (fn. 41)
The vicarage house was built next to the church in 1856 on land given in 1854 by St. John C. Charlton. The building was apparently financed from a residue in the church building fund. (fn. 42) J. E. G. Cartlidge (d. 1976), vicar 1928-47, published several books and pamphlets on the area's history, and was active in local government and the movement to improve the derelict industrial landscape of Oakengates in the 1930s. (fn. 43)
Holy Trinity church was built and consecrated in 1855, £3,103 having been raised by subscriptions and grants since 1850. Designed by Ewan Christian and built by John Millington, in the event it cost only £2,047 (fn. 44) and seated 500. (fn. 45) It consisted of a nave with short north and south aisles, chancel and a central turret, and was built in banded red and blue brick; originally the roof was similarly striped. (fn. 46)
The registers are complete from 1855. (fn. 49)
A chapel of ease at Priorslee in Shifnal parish, probably of 12th-century build, survived to serve the needs of the area's increasing industrial population in the later 18th century and, having been replaced by a new church of ST. PETER in 1836, was demolished in 1838. (fn. 50)
In the mid 18th century the old chapel was occasionally served (like Wombridge) by William Laplain and Stephen Panting, successive vicars of Wrockwardine (1740-87). (fn. 51) A set of plate was given in 1771. (fn. 52) In 1799 land bought by Queen Anne's Bounty provided the minister serving the chapel with £20-£30 a year; (fn. 53) baptisms took place there. (fn. 54) E. Roberts was minister on the nomination of the vicar of Shifnal; Roberts, however, had moved to Wales and the one Sunday service there was then taken by Robert Smith, curate of Shifnal. Said to be inconveniently timed, at one o'clock, it attracted a poor congregation. There were eight to ten Easter and Christmas communicants. (fn. 55) By 1824 Smith was minister at Priorslee, residing at Coppice Green, 5 km. to the east. His living was then worth c. £120 a year. The frequency and time of services remained unaltered. (fn. 56)
Under J. T. Matthews, minister c. 1827-c. 1857 and headmaster of Shifnal grammar school, (fn. 57) services were more frequent and more conveniently timed and a new church was built. In 1829 there were Sunday services at one and three o'clock, one with a sermon, and communion was celebrated four times a year. (fn. 58) In 1843, after the new church had been built and consecrated, services remained the same and there were 20 communicants. Marriages and burials had begun in 1837 and 1839 respectively. (fn. 59)
William Angell, minister from Matthews's death until 1881, had been his curate for at least the last year of his life. (fn. 60) During Angell's time, in 1863, Priorslee became an ecclesiastical parish separate from Shifnal. The perpetual curate was styled vicar from 1868 and the benefice remained in the patronage of the vicar of Shifnal (fn. 61) until 1982 when (fn. 62) it was united with the benefice of St. George's; patronage of the united benefice was then vested in the vicar of Shifnal and the bishop of Lichfield jointly. (fn. 63) The living, worth £140 in 1843, was worth £224 in 1885 and £400 in 1932. (fn. 64) The glebe had comprised 23 a. in Shifnal and a 28-a. farm in Halesowen (Salop. and Worcs.) in 1843; by 1884 the latter had perhaps been exchanged for one near Oldbury (Worcs.). (fn. 65)
It is not clear when in the 19th century a benefice house was first provided. In 1926 an old six-bedroomed vicarage was sold and a new one built on adjoining land. (fn. 66)
The new brick church built at Snedshill, 1 km. north-west of the old chapel and closer to the population, was designed by Ewan Christian. It consisted of a nave seating 415, 200 seats being free. A west tower and vestries were added between 1843 and 1851. (fn. 67) In 1903 a south gallery was removed and a chancel designed by C. B. Dalgleish added. (fn. 68) A churchyard extension was consecrated in 1917. (fn. 69) The single bell was installed in 1958; another of 1726 survives unhung. (fn. 70)
The register of baptisms begins in 1813, marriages in 1837, and burials in 1867. (fn. 71)