A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
In 1066 LITTLE WENLOCK belonged to the church of Wenlock (fn. 1) and it remained with Wenlock priory until the Dissolution. (fn. 2) Wenlock held the manor of the Crown except during the years between c. 1074 and 1102 when it held its estates of the earls of Shrewsbury. (fn. 3)
In 1545 Anthony Foster bought the manor from the Crown (fn. 4) on behalf of James Leveson of Lilleshall. (fn. 5) It descended with Lilleshall manor until 1590 when it was bought by Sir Rowland Hayward, (fn. 6) a former lord mayor of London. (fn. 7) After his death in 1593 (fn. 8) it passed successively to his widow Catherine (fn. 9) (d. by 1608), (fn. 10) their son George (kt. 1604, d. 1615), and Sir George's brother John (fn. 11) (kt. 1619), (fn. 12) who in 1623 sold it to Francis Forester (fn. 13) (d. 1637) of Watling Street, already a freeholder in the parish. (fn. 14) From Francis it descended through his son Francis (fn. 15) (bur. 1665) (fn. 16) to his grandson, also Francis Forester (fn. 17) (d. 1692), (fn. 18) who agreed in 1684 to sell it next year to his son William (fn. 19) (kt. 1689; d. 1718). (fn. 20) It subsequently passed in the direct male line, to William's son William (d. 1758), (fn. 21) grandson Brooke (d. 1774), who had been allotted part of the estate from 1735, (fn. 22) and great-grandson George (fn. 23) (d.s.p 1811). (fn. 24) George left the manor and estate to his cousin Cecil Forester of Rossall, (fn. 25) who then adopted the additional surname of Weld. He was created Baron Forester in 1821 and died in 1828. (fn. 26) Thereafter the manor descended with the peerage. In 1917 both passed to the 6th baron, (fn. 27) who in 1918 sold all the manorial estate, partly to the sitting tenants and partly by auction. (fn. 28) In 1981 the ownership of any manorial rights was unknown. (fn. 29)
In 1544 the Crown sold a large part of the parish to Thomas Sheldon and Lawrence Poyner, acting for John Forester the younger, of Watling Street. (fn. 34) At Forester's death in 1591 his heir was his grandson Francis Forester, (fn. 35) who bought the manorial estate in 1623.
In 1623 Sir John Hayward, before selling the manor to Forester, conveyed two (or possibly three) portions of the manorial estate to other purchasers. One was sold to his cousins (fn. 36) George and William, sons of William Hayward. (fn. 37) By 1666 it had passed to William Hayward 'the younger' (fn. 38) (d. 1708). (fn. 39) It afterwards descended to his son William (fn. 40) (d. 1727) and then to his son William (d. 1763), a serjeant at law. (fn. 41) Though he owned some property in the parish in 1763, (fn. 42) he had sold most of his estate there to William Forester, (fn. 43) apparently in 1754. (fn. 44)
The Haywards' capital messuage, called the Old Hall by 1980, stands east of the church. (fn. 45) Part of a small medieval stone house may remain in the north-west corner of the building, much of which consists of part of a 16th- or early 17th-century two-storeyed stone house, to which were added, about the mid 17th century, symmetrical canted bays east and west. A fire destroyed the east end of the house in the early 18th century. (fn. 46) Between 1708 and 1727 (fn. 47) the remaining parts were extended east and north in brick.
In 1623 Sir John Hayward sold another portion, comprising 34 a. of arable and 40 a. of pasture, with meadow and woodland, to William Warham of the Birches. (fn. 48) In 1678 William's third son, (fn. 49) William Warham of Whittimere, sold it to his nephew (fn. 50) William Whitmore (d. 1700) of Shipley. (fn. 51) By 1714 the estate belonged to the lord of the manor. (fn. 52) The Warhams' capital messuage was probably the house known in 1980 as the Stone House, (fn. 53) near the north end of Little Wenlock's main street. Built in 1661, (fn. 54) it has a front of three bays, with end stacks and a gabled rear elevation.
A third estate, perhaps bought by John Smitheman (d. 1667) in 1623, (fn. 55) certainly belonged to his son John by 1669. (fn. 56) On John Smitheman's death in 1689 (fn. 57) the estate presumably passed to his son John (d. 1709) and thence to his son John (d. 1733) and to his son John Unett (d. 1744), (fn. 58) who left it to his son John Smitheman (d. 1809) of West Coppice. He left it to his grandson J. T. Smitheman Edwardes, who sold the estate, c. 152 a., to Lord Forester in 1825. (fn. 59) The Smithemans' capital messuage, called the Manor House in 1980, stands in the middle of Little Wenlock village. (fn. 60) It is a late 17th-century two-storeyed brick building, (fn. 61) formerly a wing added to a timber-framed two-storeyed house (fn. 62) that was demolished between 1918 and 1925. (fn. 63) In 1689 the Smitheman house had a parlour and 'dwelling house' downstairs and three rooms above. (fn. 64)