A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In 1086 the 7½ berewicks of Wrockwardine, for which geld was paid on 5 hides, contained 17 ploughteams and there was land for another in Charlton. The four ploughteams in demesne were probably worked by the eight oxherds mentioned. Twelve teams belonged to 13 villeins, 4 bordars, a radman, and a priest. The presence of bordars with a share in the ploughteams probably implies the recent or continued expansion of cultivation, and Wrockwardine's value had risen from £6 13s. 8d. T.R.E. to £12 10s. in 1086. Charlton, which had one of the ploughteams and the potential for another, was worth 5s.; it belonged to the church. Wrockwardine's woodland lay 7 km. to the east in a detached block, which later became a township. (fn. 1) The 11th-century administrative status of this comparatively populous royal manor and hundred meeting place - leaving aside suggestions that it was the site of Pengwern (fn. 2) - was perhaps one reason why the manor had, or claimed, rights over a large part of the area's economic resources. Wrockwardine eventually obtained much the greatest part of the great area of woodland east of Wellington. It also had rights of common on the Wrekin and claimed uniquely extensive common rights over the whole of the Weald Moors. Exploitation of those valuable common rights may help to explain the exceptionally high proportion of Wrockwardine's territory occupied by openfield land in the Middle Ages. (fn. 3)
Areas of open field have been identified near Wrockwardine and the other villages and hamlets, a distribution clearly indicating that there were distinct groups of fields for the several settlements in the Middle Ages. In the 17th century Killstone field lay south-west of Wrockwardine, with Wrockwardine (or Town) field to the west, Dale (or Dole) field to the north, and Clay field and Clayhorns farther north still. Leaton field too was then reckoned one of Wrockwardine's fields but had perhaps originally been attached to Leaton. (fn. 4) Wide field, shared with Walcot township (in Uckington manor) in the 16th century, lay northwest of Wrockwardine and was apparently contiguous with Charlton's northern open field. (fn. 5) There were other areas of open-field land east of Allscott, north of Admaston, (fn. 6) and between Burcot, Orleton, and Cluddley. (fn. 7)
In Charlton the three main fields surrounded the hamlet and c. 1300 were usually known as the fields towards Walcot, Uckington, and the Lea. (fn. 8) A field towards Wrockwardine was mentioned in 1321, (fn. 9) and there may have been other small areas of open-field land elsewhere in the township. (fn. 10)
At Bratton, worth 24s. T.R.E., 1½ hide paid geld in 1086. There was land enough for four ploughteams but the manor was 'almost waste' and the five bordars there owned nothing. (fn. 11) Bratton field or fields (or Town field) adjoined the village. (fn. 12)
A three-course rotation was practised on the Wrockwardine demesne in 1367, (fn. 13) but arable cultivation had perhaps become less profitable in the earlier 14th century: 2 carucates of Orleton demesne land in Cluddley and Orleton were said to be very infertile in 1324 (fn. 14) and much of Charlton's land was considered of poor quality in 1354. (fn. 15) So many tenants died in 1349 that income from rents fell by 90 per cent; the value of the demesnes halved. By 1367, however, land values and manorial income seem to have recovered fully. (fn. 16) Whatever the balance of arable and livestock farming in the parish before the Black Death, sheep farming seems not to have been of great importance, for in 1341 there was alleged to be little pasture for sheep. (fn. 17)
Some specialization may gradually have developed in the townships, for Charlton and Allscott seem to have been the two best townships for hay. (fn. 18) In the Middle Ages manorial tenants had grazing rights on the Wrekin. (fn. 19) The northern side of the parish also provided extensive areas of common pasture on low lying moors. Clipsmoor extended between Charlton and Walcot townships. (fn. 20) There was further common pasture in the parish on Rushmoor, Marsh heath, and Little moor (fn. 21) and rights were claimed all over the Weald Moors. (fn. 22) From 1560 or earlier, however, manors surrounding and intercommoning the Weald Moors began to inclose them. By force, later by litigation, the commoners of Wrockwardine attempted to assert their rights of common over all the moors as far east as Newport, 13 km. away. Lord Shrewsbury's sale of his rights in the Weald Moors in 1582 soon resulted in the inclosure of most of the remaining moorland between Wrockwardine and Kynnersley by Sir Walter Leveson's tenants. Only a small amount of reputedly poor, marshy soil was left uninclosed. The Levesons and their tenants were particularly active inclosers and, according to the men of Wrockwardine in 1650, had inclosed 300 a. in Eyton and Bratton. Altogether over 2,000 a. were said to have been inclosed in under a century. Loss of the moorland pasture may have greatly reduced the numbers of cattle, and especially of sheep, owned by the inhabitants of Wrockwardine. It was prob ably at the same time that the amount of woodland pasture available in Wrockwardine wood began to decline as industry developed there. (fn. 23) At the time of the Wildmoors Inclosure Act, 1801, Wrockwardine retained some vestiges of common rights in the Weald Moors, in lieu of which 92 a. of moorland lying 1 km. north-east of Long Lane were allotted to the lord of the manor. (fn. 24)
Limited engrossment and conversion of openfield land to pasture occurred in the early 16th century. (fn. 25) Later, however, loss of commons may have stimulated open-field inclosure, most of which took place in the 17th century. Nevertheless remnants of open fields survived in 1808. (fn. 26)
In the later 16th and the 17th century, during and after inclosure, mixed farming was practised and probate inventories (fn. 27) showed the Wrockwardine farmers among the most prosperous in the area. In 1650, when some engrossment had already occurred, average farm size was 17-32 a. (fn. 28) A variety of cereals was grown, with wheat the commonest, and some peas and vetches. Clover was mentioned in 1729. (fn. 29) Cattle were kept primarily for milk; as in other parishes average herd sizes fell noticeably in the 1720s, but by the 1740s they had more than recovered. Most farms had stocks of hay; in 1612 it was said that Allscott and Charlton were the two best townships for hay in the parish. (fn. 30) Wrockwardine lay at the southern extremity of the Cheshire cheese country, and cheese for market as well as domestic consumption was widely produced. Many farmhouses, especially in Admaston, Allscott, and Bratton, had cheese store-chambers; Thomas Calcutt of Allscott had 121 cheeses in his when he died in 1744. (fn. 31)
All but the most insubstantial holdings had horses and most farms had some sheep. Flocks, generally small, averaged c. 30 sheep, although William Binnell of Cluddley had 160 in 1740. (fn. 32) Small numbers of pigs and poultry for domestic consumption were widely kept.
Hemp, and presumably flax, were already grown in the parish in the 16th century (fn. 33) and the amount produced probably increased in the late 18th century owing to the government bounty. (fn. 34) The crop was apparently concentrated immediately north-west of Wrockwardine village. (fn. 35)
In 1650 copyhold land descended by Borough English. (fn. 36) Copyhold tenure long survived in the manor, perhaps because of the divided lordship. (fn. 37) Certainly enfranchisement proceeded after William Cludde's reunion of the manorial shares 1811-22. (fn. 38) Some copyholds, however, survived until the abolition of the tenure in 1926. (fn. 39)
In 1810 87 per cent of the parish, apparently excluding Wrockwardine Wood, was occupied by 31 farms of 25 a. or more; the average size was 113 a., the largest 218 a. In addition there were 31 holdings of 5-25 a. (fn. 40) Farm sizes remained roughly the same in 1838 when, apart from land northwest and south-east of Admaston and some land around Allscott, the parish was divided into substantial, discrete farms. (fn. 41)
In 1801 slightly more barley was grown than wheat; about half that quantity of oats was also produced and a little rye. (fn. 42) Slightly more than half the parish was under grass in 1838, (fn. 43) and during the later 19th and earlier 20th century grassland and cattle farming grew at the expense of arable. Later the trend reversed, barley becoming more important and, after the Allscott sugar factory opened in 1927, sugar beet became the preponderant root crop. From the mid 19th century cattle increased while sheep declined, and after 1938 the number of pigs grew.
In 1965 nine farms in the parish had 150-300 a., and a further two 300-500 a. Mechanization increased in the 1970s and ended the tradition of bringing in seasonal potato and beet pickers by bus from 'the works', as the Telford industrial area was known. (fn. 44)
The main mill in the parish was apparently always that at Allscott, on the river Tern. It was probably the mill worth 12s. in 1086. (fn. 45) In 1176 Henry II gave it to Haughmond abbey. (fn. 46) Control of the Tern in the area was clearly a problem, (fn. 47) and c. 1235 Haughmond gave Wrockwardine church 4 a. of land belonging to Allscott mill in exchange for the right to take turves and soil from 'Gretholers' moor to repair the mill pond. The mill was worth 4s. a year in 1291. (fn. 48)
In 1553, when John Steventon was tenant, the mill was acquired from the Crown by two London speculators (fn. 49) and in 1650 Richard Steventon owned three water corn mills, probably three wheels in one mill, at Allscott. (fn. 50) In 1689 a fulling mill was to be built in the mill yard (fn. 51) and in 1700 John Cope of Allscott was described as a fuller. There were three water corn and two fulling mills there in 1745. (fn. 52) By 1799 a skin mill had replaced the fulling mills. (fn. 53) The mill closed between 1856 and 1870. (fn. 54)
Ralph of Orleton held a mill worth one mark a year, probably at Orleton, in 1198. (fn. 55) A water mill at Orleton, mentioned in 1305, was ruinous in 1324. (fn. 56) It may have lain c. 400 metres north of the hall. (fn. 57) At Wrockwardine a windmill was noted as destroyed in 1349; (fn. 58) it or a successor probably stood c. 1 km. east of the village. (fn. 59) There may have been a water mill at Bratton, where the mill brook, presumably a stretch of Bullocks brook, was mentioned in 1586-7. (fn. 60) At Cluddley a brick windmill, probably of the late 18th century, had a steam mill added in the mid 19th century. It went out of use between 1885 and 1895. (fn. 61)
Activity in the parish not directly concerned with agriculture was always limited. In 1712 Thomas Binnell dug clay on Rushmoor for brick and tile making. (fn. 62) A brick kiln east of the Wrockwardine-Admaston road in 1827 (fn. 63) had closed by 1838. Field names suggest the presence before 1838 of other kilns or clamps. (fn. 64) A brick kiln at Long Lane in 1838 apparently later closed, to reopen c. 1885. About 1900 drain pipes became its main product; it closed c. 1937. (fn. 65)
Basalt and granite were quarried around Leaton and Overley Hill during the 19th century. Extraction continued on a small scale until c. 1960 when new plant was introduced and larger-scale quarrying began east of Leaton. (fn. 66)
There was a fertilizer factory south of Allscott from 1870 or earlier until c. 1958 when it became a fertilizer warehouse. (fn. 67) In 1982 a depot at Cluddley for Unigate Dairies received milk from a wide area for sale in Telford. (fn. 68)