A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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Communications, p. 146. Growth of Settlement, p. 147. Social and Cultural Activities, p. 151. Manor and Other Estates, p. 153. Economic History, p. 155. Local Government, p. 164. Public Services, p. 166. Churches, p. 166. Roman Catholicism, p. 172. Protestant Nonconformity, p. 173. Serbian Orthodoxy, p. 174. Education, p. 174. Charities for the Poor, p. 175.
Lilleshall village lies 4 km. south-west of Newport, with the Newport-Wellington road bypassing the village to the west. (fn. 1) The ancient parish boundaries are marked on the north and west by Headford and Humber brooks, which drain on the north-west into the Weald Moors, an area where the manorial boundaries (conterminous with those of the parish) required definition in the 13th and 16th centuries. (fn. 2) The southern boundary is marked by Watling Street, and a lane thence to the Woodhouse farm runs north for a short distance along the southernmost stretch of the eastern boundary.
Unaltered until 1898 the parish boundary enclosed a compact area of 6,175 a. (fn. 3) (2,499 ha.) extending north from Watling Street to the Weald Moors. The land falls gradually from south-east to north-west, dropping c. 120 metres and then levelling out. Streams watering the centres of settlement flow north-west across the parish to drain into the Weald Moors at the boundary. There are two greatly contrasting areas. The larger is the agricultural north and east, centring on Lilleshall village. The south-west was densely occupied by coal mines and ironworks in the earlier 19th century, and a century later they were mostly derelict, leaving much of that area as an unsightly waste. In the south-west a small part of the parish was taken into Oakengates in 1898, and from 1968 Telford new town included the whole industrial area, with a view to its redevelopment. By 1983 the waste areas had been greatly improved by landscaping.
A small 1st-century Roman military installation, apparently surrounded by a later civil settlement, stood at Redhill in the south-east corner of the parish, where Watling Street crossed the summit of the hill. (fn. 4) It was probably Uxacona, named in the Antonine Itinerary. (fn. 5) Nearby are indications of both Iron Age and Roman occupation. (fn. 6) There is no evidence that Redhill was occupied beyond the Roman period.
In the early Middle Ages the sandstone slopes in the south probably supported unbroken woodland, the only remnant of which is Abbey wood. The extreme north was a waterlogged waste, though later reclaimed. From the early Middle Ages until the late 18th century the population therefore mostly lived and worked within a central drift-covered belt stretching from north-east to south-west between the less attractive areas (fn. 7) and including the villages of Lilleshall, Honnington, Muxton, and Donnington. Within the central belt, at its north-eastern end, a long outcrop of bare volcanic rock, Lilleshall Hill (132 metres above O.D.), rises dramatically some 60 metres above the surrounding fields.
The obelisk on Lilleshall Hill, designed by G. E. Hamilton, was begun in 1833 in memory of the 1st duke of Sutherland. (fn. 8) Its inscription was composed by the Revd. J. J. Blunt, (fn. 9) the vicar's son, later Lady Margaret professor of divinity at Cambridge. (fn. 10)
The remains of Lilleshall abbey were garrisoned for the Crown in the First Civil War and fell to Parliament in 1645 after long resistance. (fn. 11) A long depression north of the abbey is supposed to indicate the position of the attackers' siegeworks. (fn. 12) Already in 1598, however, the field where it lies was called the Knole, (fn. 13) a name suggesting surface irregularities. (fn. 14) A hoard of 522 coins, buried c. 1643, was found at Donnington in 1938. (fn. 15)
Annual Rogationtide perambulations, by the vicar and parishioners, of the township boundaries of Lilleshall and of Muxton and Donnington, were recorded from the 17th century, (fn. 16) when they were claimed as an ancient custom. (fn. 17) The proceedings, called 'bannering', usually lasted three days. (fn. 18) They were last recorded in 1797. (fn. 19) Robin's (or Our Lady's) well, a 'pin' well near Lilleshall Grange, was restored c. 1909. (fn. 20)
Notable people connected with the parish, besides the lords of the manor, include the 15thcentury religious writer John Mirk, canon of Lilleshall, (fn. 21) and Sir Gordon Richards, the champion jockey, born at Donnington Wood in 1904. (fn. 22)