A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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EYTON UPON THE WEALD MOORS
EYTON upon the Weald Moors lies 4 km. north of Wellington, 1 km. east of the Wellington-Crudgington road. The civil parish contains 578 ha. (1,428 a.) (fn. 1) but its compact shape by no means corresponds to that of the ancient parish which contained 1,232 a. (499 ha.) in two townships 4 km. apart: 782 a. in the township of Eyton, where land in Eyton and Wellington parishes lay intermixed, and 450 a. in two detached portions known as the Hoo (81 a.) and Hortonwood (369 a.), which together constituted Hortonwood township. (fn. 2) This article treats the history of the parish, manor, and township of Eyton and the pre-industrial history of Hortonwood township. Aspects of the later history of Hortonwood are covered under Wrockwardine Wood. (fn. 3)
In 1882 Eyton township was a compact block of land containing 1,059 a. (429 ha.) (fn. 4) on the southern edge of the formerly fen-like Weald Moors. It was defined on the west by field boundaries, on the south by the ancient Newport-Shrewsbury road, and on the east by a watercourse running down to the Weald Moors. The northern boundary followed ditches laid out on the inclosure and drainage of the Weald Moors in the early 19th century. Before inclosure, boundaries in the Moors were complicated by the existence of areas intercommoned by a number of adjacent communities, and clear-cut boundaries between townships probably crystallized at a late date. The boundaries between Eyton and neighbouring estates required clarification in the 1230s, and disputes over common rights in that part of the Weald Moors continued into the late 16th and early 17th century. (fn. 5)
By the late 18th century the township was divided in a pattern of great complexity (fn. 6) between the ancient parishes of Eyton (782 a.) and Wellington (277 a.). (fn. 7) It is not clear when the territorial division occurred: in 1635 Sir Philip Eyton, owner of the whole township, paid two thirds of his tithe to Eyton and one third to Wellington but that need not imply that the township was so divided on the ground. (fn. 8) By 1769 the territory of each parish could be mapped and was settled in that year by the erection of merestones where land in one parish lay open to that in the other. (fn. 9) Some boundaries however followed the Shrewsbury Canal, a fact suggesting that boundaries were altered after it crossed the township in 1794. (fn. 10) The pattern was simplified in 1883-4 when the detached portions of Wellington and Eyton parishes were absorbed into surrounding or adjoining parishes. (fn. 11) Nevertheless substantial portions in the south-east part of the township remained in Wellington parish (from 1894 Wellington Rural civil parish, from 1898 Hadley C.P.) until they were transferred, together with land formerly in Wappenshall township, to Eyton C.P. in 1905. (fn. 12) The civil parish had been further enlarged in 1884 by the transfer of Wrockwardine moor from Wrockwardine parish, (fn. 13) and in 1934 Eyton C.P. received part of Dothill township from Hadley and Wellington Rural C.P.s. (fn. 14)
Eyton township lies on glacial deposits overlying the Upper Coal Measures and Triassic sandstone on the northern edge of the east Shropshire coalfield. The village lies at the junction between areas of contrasting drift material, freedrained fluvio-glacial sands and gravels forming the higher land in the south and west of the township, and wetter lake clay giving way to the peat-filled Weald Moors in the north. (fn. 15) Before the drainage of the Weald Moors in the early 19th century the distinction was reflected in contrasting patterns of land use, cultivated land being restricted to the drier ground south and west of the village. The position of the village on the edge of the higher land gives it the island-like appearance recorded in its name. (fn. 16)
Eyton village consists of a scatter of houses along the road between the church and Eyton Hall. The number of dwellings appears to have dwindled since the mid 18th century. (fn. 17) Most of the present buildings are of brick and date from the late 18th or the 19th century, although 17thcentury timber-framed construction survives in the School House. The township contains two outlying farmsteads: Shawbirch, which is recorded from c. 1680, (fn. 18) and Eyton Farm, the home farm of the Eyton Hall estate, built between c. 1785 and c. 1805. (fn. 19)
The community at Eyton has never been large. In 1086 there were 4 oxherds on the demesne, 2 villeins, and 1 bordar; (fn. 20) in 1563 there were 6 households (fn. 21) and in 1587 a total of 11 tenants in the township. (fn. 22) In 1672 c. 23 householders paid hearth tax (fn. 23) and in 1776 the township contained 18 tenements. (fn. 24) In 1841 the whole township contained 120 inhabitants in 25 households (fn. 25) and by 1861 the population had risen to 165, of which the Eyton Hall household accounted for 34. (fn. 26) The civil parish of Eyton (enlarged in 1905) contained 184 inhabitants in 1911; thereafter the population declined to 92 in 1971. (fn. 27)
The township was bounded on the south, and in part on the west, by major roads that were turnpiked in 1726. (fn. 28) Two lanes formerly led into the village: one, known as Bratton Way in 1769, left the Wellington-Crudgington road near Wheelwright Cottage (now Denwood), the other left the old Newport-Shrewsbury road near Shawbirch to enter the village at its southern end. (fn. 29) In 1807 both lanes were closed and the present road to the village, following the line of Bratton brook, was built. (fn. 30) The Shrewsbury Canal was built across the township in 1794 between Wappenshall junction and Long Lane wharf. (fn. 31) A lock-keeper's cottage was built near Eyton mill, where the occupation road from the village to the Weald Moors crossed the canal.
The ready supply of coal afforded by the canal led one of the 19th-century squires, probably T. C. Eyton (d. 1880), to build a gas plant near Eyton mill to provide domestic lighting for the village. The works was operating by 1871 but ceased to function during the 1880s. (fn. 32) For water supply the village relied on private boreholes until a piped supply was provided c. 1960. (fn. 33)
In the 19th century the township's social life was dominated by the Eyton family. A cricket club, one of the earliest in the county, flourished at Eyton from c. 1839 to 1853 under the patronage of Thomas Eyton, the 'father of Shropshire cricket'. (fn. 34) He and his son, T. C. Eyton, were moving forces in the short-lived Wrockwardine and Eyton Benefit Society, which was founded in 1840 but had ceased by 1842. (fn. 35) A lodge of Odd Fellows (Manchester Unity) in 1871-2 probably had Bratton members too. (fn. 36) In 1898 the village had a clothing club, and a reading room was open two evenings a week in winter. (fn. 37) During the 1950s Eyton Hall, then uninhabited, was used for village gatherings, but in 1967 the cedar-clad village hall was built on land given to the village by Capt. A. C. Eyton (d. 1954). (fn. 38)
Hortonwood township consisted of two blocks of land containing in all 450 a., lying 4 km. east of Eyton township between Preston upon the Weald Moors and Wrockwardine Wood. The larger portion (369 a.) contained part of the straggling roadside settlement of Trench and lay north of the Wellington-Newport road, which formed its southern boundary. The smaller portion, an irregularly shaped block of 81 a. known as the Hoo, lay to the north. (fn. 39)
The definition of what were probably parts of the Domesday manor of Horton as the township of Hortonwood in Eyton parish may have been a long-drawn-out process, perhaps affected to some degree by the connexions between Eyton and Horton manors. (fn. 40) Part of the lordship of Horton, near the Hoo, was certainly in Eyton parish by 1499. (fn. 41) In 1620 Sir Philip Eyton extended his ownership of land in Horton and Horton's wood (alias the Trench) (fn. 42) and by 1635, after some years' woodland clearance in the area, (fn. 43) he claimed Horton's wood and its tithes as belonging to Eyton parish. That year Francis Charlton, laying the ground for litigation, gathered part of the tithes to make 'a title thereunto for the parish of Wellington'. (fn. 44) Nevertheless Hortonwood was firmly reckoned part of Eyton parish during the 18th and earlier 19th centuries, though in the 1820s some inhabitants of Trench Lane were uncertain whether they belonged to the manor of Horton or that of Wrockwardine. (fn. 45) In 1859 Hortonwood was included in the new ecclesiastical parish of Wrockwardine Wood. (fn. 46) In 1884 the Hoo was absorbed into Wellington (from 1894 Wellington Rural, from 1898 Hadley) C.P. and Hortonwood was transferred to Wrockwardine Wood C.P. (fn. 47)
The township lies on boulder clay and fluvioglacial sands and gravels overlying the Upper Coal Measures and Triassic sandstone, (fn. 48) the land rising towards the south. Its name, consistently given as Horton's wood from the 17th to the 19th century, (fn. 49) suggests that it was an area of late settlement resulting from woodland clearance, and wooded areas survived in the early 17th century. (fn. 50)
Settlement in Hortonwood township consisted c. 1930 of a small agricultural hamlet at Hortonwood, single farmsteads at Trench Farm and Trench Lodge (a new farmstead site occupied c. 1825), (fn. 51) and the ribbon of 19th- and early 20thcentury housing, in-filling between earlier small farms and cottages, along the southern boundary at Trench. During the mid 20th century the farming landscape north of the railway was replaced by a new industrial landscape; in 1979 large acreages were occupied by Trench Farm sewage works (built 1904-5), (fn. 52) the Central Ordnance Depot (begun 1938), (fn. 53) and Hortonwood industrial estate (under construction).
In 1086 Horton (which probably included the area later known as Hortonwood) was waste and no population was recorded. (fn. 54) By 1587 there were 18 tenants on the Eyton family's estate in 'Hor ton', but it is not known how many lived in Horton's wood and how many in Horton (in Wellington). (fn. 55) There were 15 cottagers and smallholders in Horton's wood in 1635. (fn. 56) The population of Hortonwood township had risen to 266 by 1841 and continued to grow, reaching 352 in 1891. (fn. 57)
Most of the 19th-century population lived along Trench Lane, the Wellington-Newport road that formed the township's southern boundary. A few dwellings had been built along the north side of Trench Lane by c. 1630 (fn. 58) and by 1772 the steadings of seven farms and smallholdings lay strung out along the highway. (fn. 59) The growth of industry during the 19th century resulted in a proliferation of workers' cottages. In 1841 there were 44 households containing 211 inhabitants along the north side of Trench Lane (fn. 60) and, with the mid-century expansion of the iron industry in Donnington and Oakengates, the population of Trench continued to grow: the north side of the road contained 309 inhabitants in 1871. (fn. 61) In the rest of the township, where settlement was scattered, the hamlet of Hortonwood and cottages near the Hoo and Horton contained only 55 inhabitants in 1841. (fn. 62)
The Wellington-Newport road, where it bounded the township on the south, was known c. 1630 as Trench Way and in the 18th century as Trench Lane. (fn. 63) It was turnpiked in 1763. (fn. 64) The Shropshire Union Railway was driven through the southern part of the township in 1849 (fn. 65) with a station at Trench Crossing. The line was closed to passengers in 1964 (fn. 66) although the section through Trench remained in use to serve private sidings in Donnington. (fn. 67)
An aleseller was licensed in Eyton parish in 1614 (fn. 68) although it is not known whether he lived in Eyton or Hortonwood. There is no later evidence of licensed premises in Eyton township except the record of an innkeeper living at Shawbirch in 1851. (fn. 69) Three alesellers were licensed at Trench in the later 18th century but it is not certain whether their premises lay in Hortonwood or Wrockwardine Wood. The Duke of York, Trench, so known by 1823, was probably licensed by 1800. (fn. 70) It was one of three public houses on the north side of Trench Road (formerly Trench Lane) in 1979. In 1871-2 there were two lodges of Odd Fellows (Manchester Unity) in Trench: 'Miners' Glory' with 21 members, 'Marquis of Stafford' with 270. Trench Bowling Club had a green near the western end of the former township in 1979, and at the eastern end there was a T.A.V.R. Centre, opened in 1964. (fn. 71)