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.
The manor was worth £6 in 1066, £4 in 1086. The estate was taxed at 10 hides. There were two ploughteams on the demesne and eight among the tenants, but there was room for nine more. A league of woodland covered the high ground in the south, (fn. 1) and the north-west lay within the Weald Moors.
Some reclamation of woods and marshes had probably taken place by 1086. The five bordars (fn. 2) almost certainly occupied assarts outside the open fields. (fn. 3) It was presumably the Domesday lord of the manor, Godebold the priest, who inclosed a large area of rising ground on the edge of the Weald Moors; called the 'Haye Gubald' by 1224 (fn. 4) and Lubstree park by 1283, it was said to be over a league in circumference 'by the perch of the forest'. (fn. 5) In 1277 Adam and Ralph of Preston and Robert of Ford acknowledged the abbot's right to improve (expedire) it by further inclosure (fn. 6) and that improvement, and the abbot's right to hunt deer there, received royal sanction in 1283. (fn. 7)
The park was described in 1199–1200 as an old purpresture, (fn. 8) for until 1301 the whole manor lay within the forest jurisdiction of Mount Gilbert. (fn. 9) The abbot was amerced c. 1180 for bringing 7½ a. of wheat and 7 a. of oats under cultivation, and some of his tenants were amerced for similar encroachments. At the same time another man was amerced for a purpresture at Donnington. (fn. 10) In 1184–5 three men had recently been amerced for assarting. (fn. 11) By 1198–9 the canons were paying 20s. a year for licence to cultivate 5 a. of moor near the abbey. (fn. 12)
By 1221 occupation of the Weald Moors had so proceeded that the abbots of Shrewsbury and Lilleshall had to settle a boundary between their moors of Kynnersley and Donnington. (fn. 13) By 1291 the rest of Lilleshall's northern boundary, that with Longford manor, was agreed as a brook in the Weald Moors, (fn. 14) presumably that forming the ancient parish boundary and called the Abbot's brook by 1682. (fn. 15) Woodland clearance proceeded at the same time. In 1250 the canons were allowed to keep an unauthorized assart of 23 a. in Lilleshall wood on payment of an annual rent to the Crown. (fn. 16)
In improving their wastes the canons negotiated agreements with holders of existing grazing or other rights. In 1277, for example, Adam and Ralph of Preston and Robert of Ford relinquished their common of pasture in all lands so far assarted or inclosed by the abbot within the manor, and they and Peter of Eyton (III) acknowledged the abbot's right to inclose and reclaim (approare) thirty 'great royal' acres of his wood within a line from Waxhillgate across the wood to the 'Qualmesmytthe' (presumably near Quam Pool) (fn. 17) and beyond, thence south along the boundary of the king's wood (i.e. the parish boundary) to Watling Street, east along the road to 'Elfepeston' (possibly the Allot stone standing c. 1642 at the south-east corner of the parish), (fn. 18) and so north to Willmore grange. (fn. 19) That boundary included nearly all the ancient woodland in the parish, and a large proportion of it was afterwards imparked, (fn. 20) presumably by the canons. The assart was licensed by the king in 1280. (fn. 21)
Other negotiations about that time were probably also connected with the canons' schemes for agricultural improvement. Walter de Dunstanville (d. 1270), lord of Shifnal, quitclaimed to them woodland on the Lilleshall side of Watling Street, but kept his right to common of herbage there and was granted pannage for 60 swine in the abbot's foreign wood there (perhaps Donnington wood) in return for a grant of common of pasture in his wood at Lizard. (fn. 22) In 1275 John, lord of Grindle, quitclaimed to the canons his common rights in their wood on the Lilleshall side of Watling Street. In 1279 Hugh of Haughton quitclaimed to the canons his pasture rights in any part of their Lilleshall lands that had been or would be improved, and next year the canons sold him com mon of pasture (except for goats and horses) in their foreign wood in Lilleshall manor (saving the abbot's right to make improvements) and pannage for 29 pigs and a boar between Michaelmas and Martinmas. (fn. 23)
The abbey's demesne arable consisted in 1330 of 10 carucates attached to four granges. (fn. 24) The home grange was administered from a building between the abbey and Lilleshall village; the grange house was mentioned in 1536–7 (fn. 25) and stood on the site of the present Lilleshall Grange. (fn. 26) The other three granges were probably established by reclamation of marsh and wood. Willmore grange (in existence by 1277) (fn. 27) and Cheswell grange (by 1301) (fn. 28) lay on the edge of the Weald Moors. (fn. 29) The former's buildings were demolished in the 19th century. (fn. 30) Watling Street grange (in existence by 1301) (fn. 31) lay near the manor's southern edge, its moated (fn. 32) house characteristic of late woodland colonization. (fn. 33) In 1330 the granges' arable was managed in a three-year rotation; the two parts under cultivation were worth £15 while the third lay fallow and in common. The canons also had 40 a. of meadow, worth 40s. a year, their park, a foreign wood (mentioned before 1270) (fn. 34) in which common of pasture existed, and a separate pasture.
The abbey had two broad classes of tenants outside the granges. The free tenants, probably occupiers of reclaimed land outside the open fields, (fn. 35) paid cash rents totalling £26 18s., but the neifs, probably including occupiers of the ancient (fn. 36) open fields of Lilleshall, Muxton, and Donnington, yielded only £4 0s. 4d. in cash and presumably owed labour services. In 1281 they had been amerced for neglecting to bring in the lord's hay at the proper time. (fn. 37) Cash yielded by neifs in Lilleshall, Honnington, and Muxton c. 1337 was 14 per cent of that rendered by free tenants there, but in Donnington was 36 per cent. (fn. 38)
In the 1330s and 1340s Lilleshall's arable and pasture was becoming less profitable. In 1336 the abbot stated that cattle disease and other adversities had forced him to lease out some of his demesnes because he could no longer cultivate them, (fn. 39) presumably for lack of plough beasts; the affected demesnes probably included Lilleshall, where a 'great murrain' of sheep was suffered in 1341. (fn. 40) Increase of the manor's population had necessitated a new aisle in the parish church, (fn. 41) and some unwanted open-field arable seems to have been inclosed for crofts to settle otherwise landless families. In 1345 the canons secured a tenant's consent to their inclosure of twelve open (campestrales) acres in the fields of Lilleshall, Muxton, and Donnington, on which to build messuages and cottages. The tenant was allowed to inclose a selion at Muxton and build two cottages on it. (fn. 42)
In 1330 the manor was valued at £58 18s. 8d., in 1353, after the Black Death, at only £34 18s. 10d. Some indication of population loss is the fall in annual income from pleas and perquisites of the manor courts, from 6s. 8d. in 1330 to 12d. in 1353. The demesne arable was worth only £10 in 1353, against £15 in 1330. By 1353 the underwood in the abbot's park was worth nothing because there were no purchasers; the underwood of the foreign wood, which had been worth 3s. 4d. 'before the pestilence', (fn. 43) was worth only 12d. The demesne meadow was reduced from 40 a. to 24 a. Cash rents came to only £22 but represented two thirds of the manor's value, as against a half in 1330; (fn. 44) labour services were probably difficult to exact.
By 1375 the manor's value had dropped further, and it was worth only £12 13s. 4d. to the abbey. (fn. 45) The granges' arable had been reduced to 9 carucates, and was worth only £4. Cash rents had fallen to a mere £4, or a third of the manor's value. A corresponding increase of labour services need not, however, be inferred, for stock rearing, which needed fewer men than tillage, seems to have assumed more importance; the demesne meadow, for example, remained at 24 a. and kept its 1330 value per acre.
By 1404 there had been a general recovery. (fn. 46) The manor, not counting land kept in hand and tithes, yielded a gross annual income of about £70. At the beginning of the 15th century the granges, except part of Willmore grange, were kept in hand. Each was run by a bailiff, who received a nominal salary but lived, except at the home grange, by farming the milk, paying halfyearly milk rents to the canons. The granges were worked at least partly by paid labourers. In 1405–6 the home grange employed at least a dozen, including two beadles, a carter and his son, a shepherd, and two dairymaids. Some were paid only seasonally. The wages, too small to provide a living, were presumably supplemented in most cases by a cottage holding. The canons employed additional wage-labour on the granges at the busier times of year for ditching, roadmending (paviamentum), weeding, haymaking, and reaping. Corn and oats were being grown.
Holdings outside the granges (excluding mills) yielded cash rents of £37 6s. 6½d. in 1404. Virtually all were from Donnington (46 per cent), Honnington (20 per cent), Muxton (17 per cent), and Lilleshall (16 per cent). Quam Pool accounted for 1 per cent. (fn. 47) Collecting the corn tithes at Donnington cost 8s. in 1405–6, but only 2s. each in Lilleshall and Muxton. In 1422 tenants kept c. 400 pigs in the lord's park and wood, in 73 herds of up to 18 animals. (fn. 48)
By 1429 Willmoor, Watling Street, and Cheswell granges had been farmed out. (fn. 49) Otherwise there was little change. Ordinary wages at the home grange were about the same as in 1405–6, and were paid to about the same numbers. The respective cash rents from Donnington, Honnington, Muxton, and Lilleshall townships remained virtually the same as in 1405–6. By 1437 the only change seems to have been that ordinary wages at the home grange were paid to fewer people.
In the 16th century the manor's economy continued to be based on the four granges and on the land of tenants in the four townships. (fn. 50) There were also clear signs of a continuing movement from tillage to livestock.
Throughout the century the home grange remained the only grange in hand and was mainly devoted to livestock. In 1536–7 it comprised 157 a. (fn. 51) of arable, but 331½ a. of pasture and 35 a. of meadow. In October 1538 there were 18 oxen, 15 milch cows and a bull, 20 young steers and heifers, 8 weaning calves, 40 sheep and lambs, and 35 hogs. There were only 54 qr. of unsold grain: 1 of wheat, 13 of rye, 20 of barley, 10 of oats, and 10 of dredge. At Lubstree park, which had recently been let on a 41-year lease, the canons had 10 cows and a bull. (fn. 52) In 1598 the demesne comprised not only the home grange but also the 'new' park and the 'rough and plain' of Lubstree park (in which a few parcels had nevertheless been let).
The other three granges were let by 1539 on long leases, but by 1598 Willmore grange had been broken into several holdings of pasture and meadow which were mostly let to holders of farms in the Lilleshall–Honnington open fields. Cheswell grange was by then leased for three lives, and the greater part of it was devoted to livestock. It had 50 strikes' seedness (c. 33 a.) of arable, but 32½ beasts' gate (c. 43 a.) of pasture, (fn. 53) and 22 days' math of meadow.
Outside the demesne and granges lived the great majority of the manor's tenants, their houses lying in the villages of Lilleshall and Honnington, Muxton and Donnington, each pair of villages being surrounded by a set of open fields. Two thirds of the manor's open-field arable lay in the Donnington–Muxton set, where three fields were mentioned in 1652: (fn. 54) Moor field, Park field (so called in 1625), (fn. 55) and Wood field. The other third lay in the Lilleshall–Honnington set, where four fields were mentioned in the 16th century: Hay field, Conyger field, Hill field (so called in 1345), (fn. 56) and Headford field (so called in 1409). (fn. 57)
In the earlier 16th century there was in the open fields a marked tenurial distinction between holdings with arable and those without. Over four fifths of the former were held at will (the rest by lease or copy), but less than half the latter (nearly all the rest being leaseholds). The contrast may reflect conditions in the early Middle Ages, when the makers of inclosures outside the ancient areas of tillage may have been rewarded with more desirable tenures. By 1598, however, holdings with open-field arable had become predominantly leaseholds, the few copyholds had been extinguished, and two thirds of the surviving tenancies at will were mere cottage holdings.
The change to leasehold tenure for the larger holdings within the open fields began in 1577. Sir Walter Leveson, lord of the manor during the change, suffered severe financial difficulties in later life and died in the Fleet, (fn. 58) and it therefore seems likely that he started selling leases to his tenants in order to raise money. The length of his leases, however, was carefully restricted. In 1538– 9 the leases in force were nearly all for terms of years; for larger holdings the canons had granted terms between 41 and 81 years. Sir Walter's open-field leases were mostly for three lives, with an average duration of not more than c. 25 years. (fn. 59) Of 59 leases in force in 1598, 39 were for lives (usually three); of the 20 for terms of years 11 were dated in 1577 or before, and only 5 were for longer than 21 years.
At least quarter of the arable in the open fields in 1598 was described as inclosed (probably after consolidation of holdings), and such inclosed arable, when converted to permanent pasture, caused loss of commonable land. In 1589 some Muxton pasture had recently been inclosed out of the open fields, and in 1593 pastures had been lately inclosed out of the Lilleshall–Honnington open fields. There nevertheless remained large amounts of uninclosed arable, and holdings could still lie scattered throughout the open fields; a 1597 lease included 8 strikes' seedness of arable 'in every of the leet or common fields of Lilleshall'. (fn. 60) Moreover 16th-century leases of common of pasture in the open fields, and 17th-century regulations for stinting in them, (fn. 61) imply the continued existence of arable holdings open to common grazing at the prescribed seasons.
During the 16th century the average size of the larger open-field arable holdings diminished as their number increased. In 1538–9 nearly all the arable in the Donnington–Muxton open fields was held by ten large tenants at Donnington and three at Muxton; by 1598, however, the larger holdings were in the hands of fifteen Donnington and seven Muxton tenants. (fn. 62) In the Lilleshall–Honnington open fields nearly all the arable was held by five tenants at Lilleshall and one at Honnington in 1538–9, but by 1598 the larger holdings were in the hands of twelve tenants. Such a development was perhaps a result of population growth. Over the same period, however, the cottage holdings, which usually had a croft but little or no openfield arable, seem not to have become more numerous.
During the century there was a tendency, more marked on the Lilleshall–Honnington side of the manor, for holdings of all sizes to include more pasture. In 1538–9 all the larger arable holdings in the Lilleshall–Honnington fields had meadow, but only some had permanent pasture; by 1598, however, all had permanent pasture (up to 22 beasts' gate) as well as meadow (up to 12 days' math). Eight small tenants, most of them at Honnington, held the rest of the Lilleshall–Honnington open-field arable in the 16th century; they had a little meadow but, in 1538–9, no permanent pasture; by 1598, however, some had up to 4 beasts' gate. By 1598 the larger arable holdings in the Donnington–Muxton fields all had permanent pasture (up to 11 beasts' gate) and meadow (up to 8 days' math). Most of the five or so small Muxton tenants who held the rest of the Donnington–Muxton open-field arable had a little meadow (up to 3 days' math) in 1598, but none had any permanent pasture.
In the earlier 16th century a number of substantial holdings in the open fields consisted of meadows or pastures without arable. In 1538–9 there were about twenty such holdings, nearly all of them at Donnington and Honnington. By 1598, however, there were only about five (two at Donnington). The rest had presumably been absorbed into farms that had arable.
On the Lilleshall–Honnington side of the manor there were about fifteen cottage holdings in the 16th century (two thirds of them at Honnington in 1538–9), with usually a small croft and sometimes some meadow, permanent pasture, or garden. There were a few on the Donnington– Muxton side (two thirds of them at Muxton) with usually a small croft or garden, sometimes some meadow (as in 1538–9) but never any permanent pasture. The large number and high proportion of Honnington's cottagers suggests that many of them were employees of the nearby home grange.
By the end of the century the amount of pasture available within the open fields seems to have become inadequate to the demand, perhaps as a result of population growth and inclosure of commonable land. In 1598 the area of permanent pasture in proportion to arable in the Lilleshall– Honnington fields was 1:2, and in the Donnington–Muxton fields only 1:5. By then, however, steps had been taken to provide additional pastures outside the open fields by improving marsh and woodland and by letting off parcels of Willmore grange.
The Weald Moors, in which Lilleshall and other manors had common rights, offered a large tract of grazing. During the later 16th century increased use of the moors, and attempts to improve them by draining, led to conflict between adjoining manors and a need to define their respective rights more precisely. (fn. 63) In 1574 Walter Leveson and the lord of Kynnersley agreed a boundary between their manors, (fn. 64) which also became the parish boundary. In 1582 the earl of Shrewsbury, lord of Wrockwardine, a manor that claimed common rights throughout the Weald Moors, granted his interest in the moor to Leveson for a perpetual rent. (fn. 65) Leveson, having thus established exclusive rights for his Lilleshall tenants south of the 1574 boundary, was able to inclose and improve the moor and to let off separate holdings. Of the 21 such holdings listed in 1598 at least 14 had been let in or after 1592. All but one were let as pasture, in lots from 2 twinters' gate to 6 beasts' gate, and usually for three lives. Sixteen of the tenants also held land in one of the sets of open fields. In Weald Moor leases of 1594 or later the tenant was normally allowed to clear the land and required to maintain its watercourses, bridges, and roads. (fn. 66)
In 1592 Leveson promoted a reclamation of part of Donnington wood. On 24 April he granted 13 leases of inclosed areas of the wood, totalling 46½ beasts' gate. Twelve of them, unlike his leases in the open fields, were short term (21-year) 'improving' leases. The tenant could clear the land for pasture while Leveson, in partnership with his brother-in-law (fn. 67) Vincent Corbet of Poynton, reserved the timber, underwood, and minerals. (fn. 68) All the new leaseholders were also tenants in the Donnington–Muxton fields.
The manorial tenants in 1598 did not necessarily depend solely on agriculture. Humphrey Smythe of Muxton, who held 46 strikes' seedness of arable and 6 beasts' gate of pasture, was also a 'clocksmith'. (fn. 69) Edward Shelton of Donnington, who held 16 strikes' seedness of arable and 5 beasts' gate of pasture, was a wheelwright. (fn. 70) William Wynshurste of Donnington, with 6 beasts' gate of pasture and 5 days' math of meadow, was a weaver. (fn. 71) Robert Dawe, tenant of 11 beasts' gate of pasture, was a finer of iron. (fn. 72) John Morte of Lilleshall, holder of arable and meadow and of 4 beasts' gate of pasture on Willmore grange, was a tailor. (fn. 73) So was Richard Rowley of Donnington, (fn. 74) who had 3 beasts' gate of pasture and 6 days' math of meadow. One of the biggest agricultural tenants, Barnaby Careswell of Lilleshall, was a surgeon. (fn. 75)
During the 17th century the movement towards consolidation and inclosure of open-field arable holdings was taken further, so that by 1717 only two furlongs, in Moor field, remained divided into separately held strips. (fn. 76) In the 1670s, however, the movement still had some way to go. In Lilleshall and Honnington, in addition to the four open fields named in 16th-century records, there were by 1625 open fields called Small field and Limecroft field; (fn. 77) they may have been areas detached from the original fields by consolidation and inclosure. (fn. 78) It was possible in 1674 for a holding to include strips in all six fields. (fn. 79) The inconvenience of such an arrangement soon afterwards formed the subject of a petition by some small tenants to William Leveson-Gower, the new lord of the manor. They advocated further inclosure, to be preceded by consolidation of holdings, and Leveson-Gower encouraged the process. (fn. 80)
The reduction of common of pasture by inclosure of the open-field arable and of the Weald Moors created difficulties for the smaller livestock farmers, which probably contributed to their eventual demise. (fn. 81) In 1617 a stint over the open fields of 8 beasts and 60 sheep for every ploughland was established, but in 1652 a reduction of 10 sheep for every ploughland was ordered, and cottagers were to be allowed only one beast. Increased competition for holdings is suggested by the large increase of entry fines and rents that occurred over the century. (fn. 82) More land, however, became available for rent in 1650, when nearly all the remaining demesne lands were let. (fn. 83) They were provided in 1653 with a new grange house, a long stone building of two and a half storeys, later much altered, and divided by 1980 into three dwellings. Sir Richard Leveson's arms and initials and the date are set in the centre of the north front. The deer park was kept in hand. By 1679 the part west of, and including, the lodge had been inclosed, but the greater part remained open. (fn. 84) About 1720 starving deer, which had to compete with cattle and horses for grazing inside the park, were escaping and causing damage outside. (fn. 85) The open part of the park was divided up c. 1774 and the whole let off. (fn. 86)
In the later 17th and earlier 18th century most farmers had both livestock and cereals. Herds of cattle averaged 15, rather more than in some neighbouring parishes, and cheese was widely made, sometimes on a large scale. Farmers kept sheep less often than in some nearby parishes, but their flocks were of comparable size, averaging 30. (fn. 87) Horse dealing formed part of the economy of several local families during the 17th century. They traded at fairs at Derby, Stafford, and Penkridge (Staffs.), as well as at Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth. (fn. 88) There were at least four hemp butts and a hemp yard in 1598 (fn. 89) and in 1717 there were about 15 hemp yards. (fn. 90) The parish was noted for hemp in 1784 (fn. 91) but in 1804 there were only five small hemp butts. (fn. 92)
From the 1680s to 1720, while the Revd. George Plaxton was chief agent for the LevesonGower estates, expiring leaseholds were turned into tenancies at will, and by 1720 few leaseholds remained. In the 1720s the rents were racked, and during the agricultural depression of the 1730s and 1740s increases continued though more moderately. Lilleshall escaped the worst effects of the depression because its farms did not rely mainly on cereals. (fn. 93)
In 1755 the advantage that had accrued to the landlord by rack renting was suddenly abandoned. To pay for election expenses Lord Gower offered every tenant on his Lilleshall estates a 99-year lease terminable on three lives, at the 1755 rent and for an entry fine of only one year's rent. Most accepted and until the 1790s, when a good proportion of the leases was beginning to fall in, the landlord lacked an incentive to improve his estate. Rack rents replaced the 1755 leases as they expired. (fn. 94)
As the leases fell in the marquess of Stafford appointed the first of a succession of energetic chief land agents. Using the latest techniques of estate management to extract the maximum sustained return compatible with the tenants' ability to pay, the agents, inaugurated a thorough policy of raising rents and improving holdings. The most celebrated was James Loch, from 1812 to 1855. When prices fell after the Napoleonic wars the landlord made further improvements to enable tenants to pay the rent increases he still demanded of them. Rent reduction was considered a last resort, but in 1821 Loch conceded a new renting system, in which half of a tenant's rent was reducible as the price of wheat fell. The total rent nevertheless rose between 1816 and 1833 despite a considerable fall in prices. (fn. 95) Moreover after 1825 Loch advised the landlord against investing in further estate improvements. (fn. 96)
By the 1850s rents had been increased further, but Loch's improvements had been placed the tenants in a favourable position to weather price depressions, and their rents were then considered low in relation to the value of their farms. By then there had been a shift of emphasis at Lilleshall from landlord investment and control to tenant enterprise. (fn. 97)
Throughout the 18th and early 19th century, and without the direct intervention of the landlord, the larger farmers were able gradually to increase their holdings at the expense of those with medium-sized farms. (fn. 98) In 1804, apart from 1,163 a. held by the Lilleshall Co., the manor had 25 farms over 50 a. and averaging 160 a. (fn. 99) By 1839, again excluding the Lilleshall Co.'s land, there were only 18 farms over 50 a. and they averaged 228 a. (fn. 100) While large farms were becoming larger, population growth caused an increase in the number of cottage holdings and a reduction in their average size; population growth eventually led also to an increase, in the early 19th century, in the area of the estate occupied by cottages, again at the expense of medium-sized farms. Thus by the 1830s the economic and social distinction between farmer and cottager had become absolute. (fn. 101)
In 1810 some of the farms remained fragmented, but by 1820 Loch had achieved a complete reorganization and consolidation. Field boundaries were rationalized, access roads were built or realigned, and drainage was greatly improved, especially in the north. Unsuitable farm buildings were replaced by model farms such as the Lilleshall Hill, Woodhouse, Muxton Hill, Honnington Grange, Hincks, and Donnington farms. (fn. 102)
In 1801 the main crops at Lilleshall were wheat (690 a.), oats (384 a.), and barley (325 a.). Rye, turnips, rape, potatoes, beans, and peas were also grown. (fn. 103) In 1820 the tenants were said to be excellent livestock farmers. They were also good cultivators of the lighter soils, but had been less successful on the stiffer ones. Most tenants on the heavier land, however, had begun to plough with only two horses abreast, a Norfolk practice advocated by Loch. On some of the farms with heavier soil Loch encouraged the tenants to put more down to grass. (fn. 104) In the 1840s the farmers were required to follow a five-course rotation on their arable, and could be fined for ploughing up permanent pasture. (fn. 105)
In the later 19th and early 20th century livestock farming, especially of cattle, became predominant. Sheep farming declined (fn. 106) but not so much as in the Wellington area. (fn. 107) Farmers were able to weather the agricultural depression and were helped by individual rent reductions. In the 1890s, dissatisfied with livestock prices at local markets, they held auctions on their own farms, attracting buyers from Herefordshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire. (fn. 108) In the mid 20th century arable farming resumed its earlier supremacy, but barley did not predominate over wheat (fn. 109) as it did around Wellington. (fn. 110) There was also more diversification. In 1979 potatoes and daffodils were grown on a large scale at Honnington Grange and fruit at Lubstree Park. (fn. 111) The tradition of efficient farming established under the Leveson-Gowers was maintained in the 20th century. (fn. 112) For example in 1979 Donnington farm and Honnington Grange were being worked as a single unit (c. 735 a.), from whose arable parts hedges and isolated trees had been removed.
On the eve of the 5th duke's sales in 1914 and 1917 there were 17 farms over 50 a. Excluding two farms that extended into an adjoining parish, the average size was 247 a. The largest was Lubstree Park. Its tenant, T. H. Ward, also held Donnington Wood farm. (fn. 113) Ward was progressive and successful, and his family was to include a number of notable agriculturists. (fn. 114) In 1914 he bought Donnington Wood farm and the Hincks, and his son T. C. Ward bought Lubstree Park. (fn. 115) T. C. Ward owned some 1,100 a. in the parish at his death in 1956. (fn. 116) In 1979 T. H. Ward's descendants owned or farmed Lubstree Park, Watling Street Grange, Woodhouse, Honnington Grange, and Donnington farms. Some farmland in the parish, however, had recently been bought by an insurance company. (fn. 117)
Sources: P.R.O., MAF 68/143, no. 1; /1340, no. 10; /3880, Salop. no. 127; /4945, no. 127.
There was a mill in 1086 worth nothing. (fn. 118) The abbot was amerced c. 1180 for having a mill within the royal forest, (fn. 119) perhaps on Lilleshall manor, and c. 1200 for making a mill and a pond in the forest. (fn. 120) The latter was probably at Lubstree park, where the lords of Preston and Eyton manors at about that time permitted the abbot to make a mill and pond (Lubstree pool) on Humber brook. (fn. 121) The pond lay immediately upstream of the crossing of the brook by the Lilleshall–Preston road in 1580. By then the mill had been replaced by a water-powered forge. (fn. 122)
In 1330 the abbot had two water mills on his demesne, one of them within the abbey precincts ('infra abbatiam') worth 26s. 8d. a year, the other outside and worth 40s. a year. (fn. 123) In 1353 their value was 12s. and 10s. (fn. 124) There was only one water mill on the demesne in 1375, but it was worth 53s. 4d. (fn. 125) By 1404 John the miller rented a mill or mills at Honnington. (fn. 126) In 1428–9 and 1436–7 Thomas Millward was renting a mill or mills at Lilleshall outside the demesne. (fn. 127) In 1536– 7 one water mill was recorded on the demesne. (fn. 128) In 1538–9 there were two mills at Honnington, let together, and another 'within Lilleshall park'; all three were rented by Thomas Fletcher in 1538. (fn. 129) John Jenckes, 'the miller', occurred in 1637–8. (fn. 130)
In 1634 there were three mill sites on the stream between Lilleshall abbey and the village, all on the demesne. The first, a wheat mill, lay north-west of the abbey ruins. Another, an old malt mill, stood some 200–300 metres downstream. At the third site, by the pond 'at Lilleshall town's end', stood mills of unspecified number. (fn. 131) In 1717 each of the first two ponds had a building, presumably a mill, on its downstream side, and a mill was recorded next to the town's end pond. (fn. 132) That mill remained in 1805, (fn. 133) but the others had apparently gone by 1804. (fn. 134)
Between 1775 and 1804 a windmill was built on the west side of Lilleshall village street. (fn. 135) It was rented in 1804 by Joseph Boycot, (fn. 136) who, as a miller, had been tenant of the three mill ponds c. 1780. (fn. 137) The building was called the Old Windmill in 1880 (fn. 138) and had disappeared by 1901. (fn. 139) The large pond immediately south of the Wellington–Newport road at Honnington existed by 1717 (fn. 140) and may previously have been a mill pond. Between 1817 and 1819 Honnington Grange farm was provided with its own corn mill (fn. 141) driven by water from the pond. Later a turbine replaced the mill. (fn. 142)
It is likely that the Lilleshall mills were less used after c. 1820 when the Donnington Wood corn mills (in Wrockwardine Wood) came into operation. (fn. 143)
Mines, quarriws, and sandpits.
The parish formerly had valuable minerals, especially coal and ironstone at Donnington Wood and limestone at Lilleshall village.
The Coal Measures are near the surface on the west side of Donnington Wood, but dip towards the east, especially beyond the Lightmoor fault. (fn. 144) The earlier pits were therefore on the extreme west of the parish. Mining did not progress northwards beyond the Boundary fault, just south of Donnington village.
The manor had a coal mine worth 20s. a year in 1330, (fn. 145) but it was not mentioned in 1353 or 1375. (fn. 146) The road name Coalpit Way occurred at Donnington wood in 1592. (fn. 147) In April 1592 Sir Walter Leveson, in partnership with his brother-in-law (fn. 148) Vincent Corbet of Poynton, let several parcels at Donnington wood, reserving any coal there; the tenants were expected to clear the surface. (fn. 149) In 1717 a field called Bradshaw Leasow coalpits lay on the western edge of the wood. (fn. 150) Outside the Donnington wood area two fields on either side of the Muxton–Honnington road, which both acquired the name Pit leasow in the 18th century, (fn. 151) may have been associated with coalpits that, according to local tradition, lay nearby. (fn. 152)
Limestone was being extracted in the parish by the early 17th century and limekilns existed there in 1625, (fn. 153) though lime was brought in from Huntington, in Little Wenlock, c. 1620. (fn. 154) Lilleshall lime was used in the 1650s in building Audlem grammar school (Ches.). (fn. 155) Drainage, however, seems already to have been a problem; in 1655 a bather drowned in the Lilleshall lime pits. (fn. 156)
In 1674 the new landlord, William LevesonGower, leased all the minerals in the manor (except in Lilleshall park) to Francis Charlton of Apley for 21 years. By the time the lease expired the surface coal at Donnington wood was exhausted, and the deeper coal could not be mined until proper drainage had been devised. At the limestone workings satisfactory drainage had recently been effected, but they could not be exploited without coal for the kilns. Sir John Leveson-Gower was advised not to lease the minerals again, because of the tenant's inclination to exhaust them before his lease expired, and they remained in hand 1695–1715. Between 1715 and 1764 they were leased to a succession of tenants, all of whom failed to make them pay, (fn. 157) although some iron ore from Donnington Wood was being used from 1755 at the Horsehay ironworks in Dawley. Much greater investment in drainage and equipment was needed. (fn. 158)
To that end a partnership was formed in 1764 between Earl Gower and the brothers John and Thomas Gilbert, the earl having a half share. Earl Gower & Co. (from 1786 the Marquis of Stafford & Co.) continued in existence until 1802, and its main concern was to rent and develop the coal and limestone industries on the earl's Shropshire estates. (fn. 159) The company's period of greatest investment was between 1764 and 1773. (fn. 160) Other lessees, the Donnington Wood Co., held the Donnington Wood ironstone workings, (fn. 161) and by 1788 coal and ironstone mines covered the western side of Donnington Wood. (fn. 162) The Donnington Wood Co. made an underground level to drain its workings. (fn. 163) Individual coalpits were managed by charter masters, contractors to the company who had a share of the profits. (fn. 164) The system survived at one pit until 1913. (fn. 165)
In 1802 the Marquis of Stafford & Co. was dissolved, to be replaced by the Lilleshall Co., a new partnership between the marquess's second son, Lord Granville Leveson-Gower (cr. Viscount Granville 1815, Earl Granville 1833), John Bishton the elder, James Birch, John Onions, and William Phillips. The last four were already lessees of the Donnington Wood ironworks and ironstone mines, and thus brought the parish's iron-making resources into direct combination with the former company's coal and limestone enterprises. (fn. 166) From 1802 all extraction of ironstone and limestone in the parish and of coal (until coal nationalization in 1947) was carried out by the Lilleshall Co. During January 1805 the Donnington Wood pits produced 6,750 tons of coal and 1,300 tons of ironstone, (fn. 167) and there was further expansion until the middle of the century, especially into the deeper seams that lay on the east side of the wood. The company sank its first deep mine, at Waxhill Barracks, in 1818, (fn. 168) and another, the Freehold pit, at about the same period. (fn. 169) The Muxton Bridge pit was opened by 1840. (fn. 170) There were over 400 a. of coalpits and waste tips in the parish in the 1840s, (fn. 171) and their production was running at some 100,000 tons of coal a year, with 50,000 tons of iron ore. (fn. 172) By 1860 the Granville pit had been sunk (fn. 173) and sinking of the Grange (originally the Albert and Alexandra) pit (fn. 174) began in 1864. (fn. 175)
From the late 19th century coalmining in the parish gradually declined. The Waxhill Barracks colliery ceased production c. 1900, (fn. 176) and that at Muxton Bridge soon afterwards. (fn. 177) The Freehold colliery closed in 1928 (fn. 178) and only the Grange and Granville collieries survived until nationalization. (fn. 179) In 1951 the two were connected underground, and from 1952 the Grange served merely to ventilate the Granville. (fn. 180) In 1979 the Granville colliery, then employing some 560 men, was closed. It was the last coal mine in Shropshire. Increasing geological difficulties had contributed to falling production and several years of heavy losses. (fn. 181)
In the later 18th century the Lilleshall limestone workings assumed their greatest extent as opencast quarries. There were two main quarries. The larger, Collier's Side, lay immediately northeast of Limekiln Lane. The smaller lay on the west side of the lane. From the quarries underground workings are believed to have begun in the late 18th century, and it was from the underground workings that most of the limestone was thenceforth extracted, while kilns stood on the old quarry floors. (fn. 182) Output of limestone at Lilleshall during January 1805 was 7,400 tons. (fn. 183) The white stone was favoured as a flux for iron making, while the grey made an excellent hydraulic cement (fn. 184) and was so used by 1767. (fn. 185) By 1846 the fluxing limestone was exhausted. (fn. 186) About 1856 the annual output of limestone from all the Lilleshall Co.'s workings was 26,000 tons, a high proportion of which was from Lilleshall. (fn. 187) About 1858 the Willmore limestone mine was begun, east of the old quarries, and before it closed in 1882 it had yielded an estimated 175,000 tons. (fn. 188) From c. 1860 the company began to move its limestone mining activity to Presthope, in Much Wenlock, and later to Nantmawr, in Oswestry. Drainage difficulties made the main Lilleshall workings unprofitable. (fn. 189) By the 1870s large-scale production had ceased (fn. 190) but small amounts of agricultural lime probably continued to be made. (fn. 191)
A disused sandstone quarry, said to have supplied stone for St. George's church, (fn. 192) adjoined Watling Street in 1882, (fn. 193) and nearby on the north-east the name 'quarell fylde' occurred in 1547. (fn. 194) Another disused sandstone quarry occurred in 1881 north-east of the Old Lodge site. (fn. 195) By 1839 igneous rock was being quarried from Lilleshall Hill for road making, (fn. 196) and quarrying was recorded there in 1900. (fn. 197) Excellent foundry sands were dug at Donnington Wood (fn. 198) until the early 20th century. (fn. 199)
Iron and engineering.
The parish's abundance of suitable materials favoured the early development of ironworking. In some form it was being carried on at Donnington wood by 1277, when the 'qualmesmytthe' (probably the 'smithy of the spring') (fn. 200) lay isolated in the wood between Waxhillgate and the manor's western boundary. (fn. 201) The smithy was near Quam Pool and by 1804 the area was occupied by ironworks and mines. (fn. 202)
Between the late 16th and late 18th century there was commercial iron making in the parish on a small scale. By 1580 Walter Leveson owned water-driven hammers on Humber brook at Lubstree pool, (fn. 203) where the abbot's mill had stood. (fn. 204) It was alleged in 1583 that the pond had been brought back into use only in recent years. (fn. 205) Robert Dawe of Lubstree, described in 1595 as a finer, (fn. 206) rented a cottage at Lubstree park and pasture on both sides of the brook (fn. 207) and may be assumed to have worked the Lubstree forge or 'hammer smithies' (so called in 1600). (fn. 208) A successor, Thomas Dawes the 'hammersman', occurred 1658–61 as tenant of the pasture, but the hammer house was rented by William Whitmore the lodge keeper. (fn. 209) The neighbourhood was known as the Hammers by 1678 (fn. 210) and thence by 1881 as the Humbers. (fn. 211) By 1585 a bloom forge was working in Lilleshall village at the 'Pool'. Since it was from that forge that a fire spread through the village, (fn. 212) the pool was probably the mill pond taken into the Hall grounds c. 1810. (fn. 213) In 1591 Sir Walter Leveson leased his Shropshire ironworks, furnaces, forges, and hammers to his brothers-in-law, (fn. 214) Richard Corbet of Moreton and Vincent Corbet of Poynton, for 10 years. (fn. 215) The Lilleshall furnace, one of the earliest blast furnaces in the west Midlands, (fn. 216) may have stood at Donnington wood, where by the following year Vincent Corbet had rights in the ironstone and in the wood (for charcoal burning). (fn. 217)
In the later 17th century ironworks on the manor seem to have been carried on, like the mines, by lessees, and associated trades, founding and nail making, developed. Thomas Fox of Muxton was an ironmaster in 1666–7, (fn. 218) and in the period 1686–9 John Charlton and his father (fn. 219) Francis, of Apley Castle, occurred as lessees of ironworks in Lilleshall manor (fn. 220) as well as of all the mines. Small amounts of charcoal slag occur beside the stream from one of the former mill ponds (fn. 221) to a point north of Lilleshall Grange. (fn. 222) Nail making was carried on at Pain's Lane in the late 17th century. (fn. 223) Before 1717 iron was being cast immediately upstream of the supposed mill pond at Honnington, on the right bank of the stream. The place was called Founders yard in 1717 and was rented by John James. (fn. 224) In 1804 the same field was called Furnace meadow and rented by the Lilleshall Co. (fn. 225)
Large-scale iron making in the parish began in 1785, when a furnace came into blast at Donnington Wood. The works was started by William Reynolds and Joseph Rathbone on 36 a. leased from Earl Gower, adjoining the north side of the Donnington Wood Canal on the western edge of the parish. Gower contributed £2,000 to the enterprise. In 1796 John Bishton and his partners bought the works and in 1797 became lessees of the site too. In 1802 the works passed to the Lilleshall Co., which owned it thereafter. By 1802 there were two furnaces, and a third was added in that year. (fn. 226) The pig iron was of high quality and in 1810 was being used at the Soho Foundry, Smethwick. (fn. 227) In spite of a stoppage in 1817 caused by the general depression, (fn. 228) and another in 1821 caused by colliers who were protesting against wage reductions, all the furnaces remained active until 1846 when one was blown out. The other two were blown out c. 1859. (fn. 229) Associated with the Donnington Wood furnaces was the nearby Yard, comprising a foundry and small engineering shop. It closed in 1861 (fn. 230) when the New Yard engineering works opened in Wrockwardine Wood township. (fn. 231)
In 1825 the company brought into blast two new furnaces near the site of the Old Lodge. In 1830 the Donnington Wood and Old Lodge ironworks together produced 15,110 tons. A third furnace was added at the Old Lodge in 1846 and two more c. 1859. (fn. 232) The Old Lodge furnaces produced cold-blast pig iron of the finest quality, but eventually it could not compete with cheaper iron made elsewhere or with Bessemer steel, and in 1888 the last of the Old Lodge furnaces was blown out. Thereafter the company concentrated all its iron and steel making at Priorslee. (fn. 233)
In 1857 Charles Walker & Sons of Clerkenwell, engineers, moved to a railside site at Donnington and changed the firm's name to C. & W. Walker. (fn. 234) The works, known by 1880 as the Midland Iron Works, (fn. 235) was directed, from 1857 until his death in 1897, by C. C. Walker. (fn. 236) The firm specialized in making gas-purification plant and gas holders. At first the works employed 30–40 men, but it soon became one of the world's leading suppliers of gas equipment. There were 200–300 employees by 1870, (fn. 237) 400–500 by 1879, (fn. 238) and 700–800 by 1891, (fn. 239) and in 1899 the firm became a limited company. (fn. 240) In 1948 the works covered nearly 18 a. but the workforce had fallen to c. 400. (fn. 241) From the 1960s, when coal gas was superseded by natural gas, the firm specialized in containers for other gases, chemicals, and grain. In 1979 it still employed over 300 people but had recently sold part of the site for occupation by smaller firms. (fn. 242)
Bricks and tiles.
Before the late 18th century bricks were made in several parts of the parish, and sometimes on a commercial scale. A Brick furlong occurred south of Lilleshall Grange in 1598. (fn. 243) In the later 17th century the Broadhurst and Barber families were supplying the parish officers with bricks and tiles, (fn. 244) presumably made in the parish. (fn. 245) A Brick Kiln close occurred at Lubstree park in 1717, (fn. 246) and a Brick Kiln piece north of Watling Street Grange in 1774. (fn. 247) In 1804 there was a Brick Kiln leasow south-west of Cheswell Grange and a Brick Kiln piece south of New Lodge. (fn. 248)
In the late 18th and early 19th century largescale brick and tile making catered for industrial and housing development at Donnington Wood (fn. 249) and agricultural improvements, which demanded bricks, roof tiles, and drainage pipes. From 1761 to 1780 Joseph Taylor occurred as tenant of a large brick and tile works on the northern edge of Donnington wood; (fn. 250) the works, called the Woodfield (or Waxhill) brick yard, (fn. 251) remained active until the beginning of the 20th century. (fn. 252) In 1804, after the Lilleshall Co. had assumed control of the industry, there was a Wood Brick Kiln piece north-east of Pain's Lane, (fn. 253) and a brick yard was still working there in 1850. There was a brick yard at the White colliery near the canal at Donnington Wood in 1839; (fn. 254) it closed between 1880 and 1901 (fn. 255) as did a small yard west of the Old Lodge site. (fn. 256) Brick and tile making in the parish became concentrated at the mechanized Donnington Wood brickworks (fn. 257) that opened in 1876 near the old Pain's Lane works. (fn. 258) About 1908 it was producing 3–4 million bricks a year. (fn. 259) The bricks were of high quality but proved expensive after the Second World War, (fn. 260) and the works closed in 1972. (fn. 261)
Central ordnance depot.
Donnington was chosen in 1936 as the site of a depot to replace the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. (fn. 262) The site was not ideal, considered strategically, but was designed to provide employment in a depressed area. (fn. 263) In addition to a loss of mining and iron-making jobs since the 19th century, the parish had suffered heavy redundancies in 1931 when the New Yard works at St. George's closed. (fn. 264) Construction of the depot, adjoining the north side of the railway, began in 1938. The first stores were brought from Woolwich in 1939, (fn. 265) six hundred civilians were transferred thence in 1940, and the depot was completed in 1943. By 1962, with its associated units, it was the biggest employer of civilian labour in the parish. (fn. 266) In 1976 nearly 4,000 civilians worked there.