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 Eyton township was assessed at 3 hides, the main feature then, as later, being the high proportion of the land that was in demesne. There were 2 ploughteams on the demesne while the 2 villeins and 1 bordar who were mentioned held only ½ team. The estate's value had dropped from 33s. in 1066 to 20s. at the time of the Domesday survey, and there was potential for a further 1½ team to be employed. (fn. 1)
Before the 19th century the pattern of land use was dominated by the division between the higher, better drained ground in the south and west of the township, where the community's arable land was concentrated, and the wet, low-lying Weald Moors in the north, which provided extensive reserves of pasture and meadow. In the late 16th and the early 17th century the arable area was organized as three open fields, the area under crop in any one year being divided between the winter field, ploughed at Michaelmas, and the Lent field, ploughed at the feast of St. Chad (2 March). (fn. 2) In the 17th century the three fields were known as Holt field, north-west of the village, Little field, south-west of the village beside Bratton brook, and Dossett field, south-east of the village in the area of the later Eyton Hall deer park. The fields still lay open in 1635 but had been inclosed by 1694. (fn. 3) There was more arable in Mill field, on the edge of the Weald Moors, where ploughed out ridge and furrow was visible in 1975. (fn. 4)
Concern over the boundaries between Eyton and neighbouring estates in the Weald Moors in 1231 (fn. 5) perhaps suggests that pressure on the reserves of pasture and meadow was beginning to be felt. In the early 15th century the lord of Eyton appears to have encouraged clearance and improvement in the area by granting land in the Weald Moors on long lease, rent free for the first eight years while the tenants cleared scrubland. (fn. 6) By the late 16th century a band of 'pastures several' in Eyton township flanked the still unimproved part of the Weald Moors known as Rough moor, on which common rights were claimed by Wrockwardine, Eyton, Kynnersley, Wappenshall, and Preston. (fn. 7) In 1650 the inhabitants of Eyton and Bratton were said to have encroached 300 a. in the Weald Moors. (fn. 8) The inclosure of Eyton moor and adjacent areas was completed in the 19th century under the Wildmoors Inclosure and Drainage Act of 1801. (fn. 9) Most of the land north of the canal remained under grass until further drainage after the Second World War enabled it to be converted to arable. (fn. 10) Conversion to arable at that period, notable in other parts of the parish, reversed a trend of the later 19th and earlier 20th century whereby grassland and cattle farming had increased considerably at the expense of arable. Sugar beet became an important crop (fn. 11) after the Allscott factory opened in 1927.
Sources: P.R.O., MAF 68/143, no. 14; /1340, no. 10; /3880, Salop. no. 231; /4945, no. 231.
Woodland survived in the south-west corner of the township at Shawbirch in 1626. (fn. 12) That may have been the wood of Eyton mentioned in 1235. (fn. 13) Little woodland remained in Eyton by the late 18th century (fn. 14) but between c. 1805 and 1825 a number of plantations were made, mainly with a mixture of oak and ash but with some larch; most of them survived in 1979 as scrubby woodland. (fn. 15)
A high proportion of the township remained in demesne in the early 17th century. In 1635 there was only one ploughteam in the parish and that belonged to the lord of the manor, Sir Philip Eyton; (fn. 16) in 1646 the demesne was valued at £160 while the rental value of the remainder of the township, divided into several small tenements, was only £38 6s. 11d. (fn. 17)
By c. 1680 the estate, including the demesne, was let as 13 holdings, of which 7 were held on leases for lives, (fn. 18) but some land in Eyton was farmed by the lord in 1709. (fn. 19) By 1776 the whole estate consisted of 11 landed tenements and 7 cottages. (fn. 20) The pattern of land holding underwent considerable change during the late 18th and the early 19th century, particularly after 1816 when Thomas Eyton went to live in Eyton. The acreage held in hand by the lords of the manor rose from 92 a. c. 1785 to 250 a. in 1816, 397 a. in 1818, and 409 a. in 1829. (fn. 21) Most of it (337 a. in 1829) was farmed from the home farm, Eyton Farm, where a courtyard of buildings had been built c. 1800. (fn. 22) It was managed by a bailiff during the 1840s and 1850s (fn. 23) but had been leased out by 1871. (fn. 24)
By 1840 the remaining land in the township had been consolidated into five farms: Eyton House farm (264 a.), Shawbirch farm (120 a.), and three smaller holdings in Eyton village of 87 a., 30 a., and 15 a. (fn. 25) Further consolidation took place during the 20th century and by c. 1965 most land in the township belonged to two large holdings, Eyton House farm, which had absorbed the land of the smaller holdings in the village, and Eyton farm, to which the land of Shawbirch farm had been added before 1929. In 1979 both Eyton farm and Eyton House farm were run by T. H. Udale & Sons Ltd. (fn. 26)
Eyton mill, first recorded in 1506, (fn. 27) stood north-east of the village on Hurley brook. The brook was supplemented by water from a branch of Bratton brook that had been diverted to feed the mill by 1769. (fn. 28) In 1659 there were said to be 4 water corn mills under one roof in Eyton (fn. 29) and 3 mills were mentioned in 1744 and 1776. (fn. 30) During the early 19th century the mill was let with a farm of over 80 a. (fn. 31) but in the 1850s and from c. 1890 until c. 1907, when grain ceased to be ground, it was run by the tenant of Eyton farm. (fn. 32)
Farming was always the main activity in the township and the high proportion of agricultural labourers in the village in the 19th century reflected the concentration of land into large holdings. Eleven of the 25 heads of household in the township in 1861 were hired farm workers. (fn. 33) Most other inhabitants of the village between 1841 and 1871 worked at the various ancillary occupations associated with an agricultural community. (fn. 34)
Hortonwood's name suggests that the township originated as woodland belonging to the vill of Horton. It is probably to be identified with the ½ league of woodland and a hay that were recorded in Horton in 1086. (fn. 35) The boundaries of the detached parts of Eyton upon the Weald Moors, Preston upon the Weald Moors, and Wrockwardine in that area required clarification in 1238. (fn. 36) Assarting in the wood of Horton is recorded in 1271. (fn. 37) Woodland containing oak, ash, crab, and yew survived in 1616, carefully preserved by the Eytons within fences and quickset hedges; its major economic value was as pasture for tenants on the Eyton family's estate, and there was 'great store' of timber. (fn. 38) The wooded area may then have been concentrated in the east of the township where there was a demesne wood called the 'Hakles' in 1587. (fn. 39) In 1616 Horton's wood contained a number of cottages old and new, some of which had been erected during Robert Eyton's lordship (1582-1604). (fn. 40) By 1635 eleven cottages in Horton's wood had each had 4 a. allotted to them, a fact that may indicate a period of active woodland clearance in the early 17th century. (fn. 41)
The pattern of small farms, which survived into the 19th century appears to have been established by 1659. The land in Horton's wood and Preston, sold by the Eyton family in that year, consisted of 24 small tenements, mostly let on rack rents at an average rent of £4 16s. 4d., in addition to the 'Hakelyes' let for £25 a year, and the demesnes of Hoo Hall. (fn. 42) In 1772 the township contained 12 holdings, of which 7 were farms of 30-70 a. and 5 were smallholdings under 15 a. (fn. 43) Despite the growth of industrial settlement at Trench in the 19th century the farming pattern remained substantially unchanged. None of the 9 farmers in the township in 1871 occupied more than 70 a., (fn. 44) and the holdings remained small on the break-up of the Preston hospital estate in 1953. (fn. 45)
The only commercial activity in the township, before the construction of the industrial estate (opened 1979), (fn. 46) was concentrated at Trench, the roadside settlement that straddled the boundary between Hortonwood and Wrockwardine Wood townships. (fn. 47)