Pages 196-198

A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.

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The ancient parish and townships and the civil parish boundary changes of 1883-1884

Communications, p. 198. Growth of Settlement, p. 204. Social and Cultural Activities, p. 210. Manors and Other Estates, p. 215. Economic History, p. 222. Local Government, p. 232. Public Services, p. 236. Churches, p. 238. Roman Catholicism, p. 242. Protestant Nonconformity, p. 243. Islam, p. 245. Education, p. 245. Charities for the Poor, p. 251. Hadley and Horton, p. 253. Ketley, p. 267. Lawley, p. 276.

The old market town of Wellington lies just north of Watling Street 16 km. east of Shrewsbury. By the beginning of the 19th century it was second only to the county town in size and importance, a position that it maintained in the 20th century. In 1968 it was included in Telford new town. Wellington was the centre of a large and varied parish: the easternmost townships lay on the east Shropshire coalfield and developed as loose-knit mining and industrial areas. During the 20th century housing and, in a smaller degree, industry expanded into the parish's rural areas, a movement stimulated by Telford development corporation from the 1970s. Nevertheless parts of the ancient parish remained completely rural in 1983. (fn. 1)

The ancient parish comprised 9,243 a. (fn. 2) (3,740 ha.) and contained twelve whole townships (Apley, Arleston, Aston, Dothill, Hadley, Horton, Lawley, Leegomery, Walcot (detached), Wappenshall, Watling Street, and Wellington) and most of Ketley township, and had small parts (mostly detached) in Bratton, (fn. 3) Eyton upon the Weald Moors, and Preston upon the Weald Moors townships. Without the detached parts it was roughly square, with Aston, Horton, and Wappenshall as excrescences. Its boundaries, and those of the townships, often followed watercourses or roads. (fn. 4)

The ancient and civil parishes were conterminous until 1883. In 1883-4 the detached areas (with one small exception) were transferred to other C.P.s: 130 a. to Eyton upon the Weald Moors, 139 a. to Preston upon the Weald Moors, and 414 a. (Walcot township) to Wrockwardine. At the same time Wellington C.P. took in three detached parts (129 a.) of Eyton C.P. (including the Hoo, whose absorption connected a ¼-a. detached part of Wellington to the rest of the parish) and two detached parts (42 a.) of Preston C.P. (fn. 5)

In 1894 Wellington C.P. was divided into Wellington Urban and Wellington Rural C.P.s; (fn. 6) Wellington Urban was, and remained, conterminous with Wellington urban district. (fn. 7) The U.D. and Urban C.P., enlarged by territory from the Rural C.P. in 1903 (fn. 8) and 1934 and from Wrockwardine C.P. in 1934, (fn. 9) were abolished in 1974; (fn. 10) thereafter their area, not assigned to any C.P., coincided with six wards of the district of the Wrekin, except that the south-western part of the former U.D. was included (with adjoining C.P.s) in Wrockwardine ward. (fn. 11)

In 1898 the north-eastern part of Wellington Rural C.P. was created Hadley C.P. (fn. 12) Thereafter Wellington Rural C.P. gradually lost more territory to the adjacent C.P.s: to Wellington Urban in 1903 (fn. 13) and 1934, to Eyton, Hadley, Oakengates, and Wrockwardine in 1934, to Dawley in 1934 (fn. 14) and 1966, and to Little Wenlock in 1966; (fn. 15) it gained a small area from Hadley C.P. in 1934. (fn. 16) In 1976 what remained of Wellington Rural C.P. was renamed Ketley. (fn. 17)

The present article treats the whole ancient parish except for the small parts in Bratton, Eyton, and Preston townships; (fn. 18) within it, however, the coalfield townships of Hadley (with Horton), Ketley, and Lawley receive, as far as possible, separate treatment. (fn. 19)

Outside the coalfield townships the only part of the ancient parish included in Dawley new town in 1963 was a small area of Arleston township. (fn. 20) From 1968, however, the designated area of Telford new town covered all but the northern, southern, and western extremities of the ancient parish. The excluded areas were still rural in character: in the north they comprised most of Wappenshall township, small parts of Apley and Hadley townships, the former Wellington part of Bratton township, and almost all the former Wellington parts of Eyton and Preston townships; in the south and west they comprised Aston and Walcot townships, most of Watling Street township, a large part of Arleston township, and a small part of Wellington township. (fn. 21)

The southern part of the parish is dominated by the Wrekin, a celebrated Midland landmark. (fn. 22) It is composed mainly of volcanic rocks and its summit (407 metres above O.D.) lies in Aston township. Its slopes and those of its northern foothills, Maddock's Hill (280 metres), the Ercall (265 metres), and Lawrence's Hill (c. 215 metres), descend steeply northwards and westwards over the southern half of the parish to c. 100 metres above O.D., and thence level off gradually towards the Weald Moors reaching c. 50 metres at the northern limit of Wappenshall township. The centre of Wellington town (c. 95 metres above O.D.) is on sand and gravel, which extends immediately westwards, but the surrounding land consists predominantly of boulder clay. Farther north and east, in Apley, Dothill, and Leegomery townships, sand and gravel again predominate, and lake clay and peat cover most of the northern part of Wappenshall township. Most of the parish drains north towards the Weald Moors. Parts of Aston, however, drain south-westwards by Bell brook to the Severn at Wroxeter, and Walcot is drained by the Tern.

The summit of the Wrekin, frequented in the Bronze Age, (fn. 23) was occupied by a large hill fort in the Iron Age, (fn. 24) presumably the pre-Roman capital of the Cornovii. (fn. 25) Crop marks on the lower slopes perhaps represent other Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman sites. (fn. 26) Wooden buildings inside the fort were apparently burnt, (fn. 27) possibly by Roman forces. In the 7th century the fort may have served as a British refuge. (fn. 28) A hermitage on the Wrekin, recorded in 1267 and 1500, (fn. 29) was perhaps associated with a holy well. (fn. 30) The suggestion that a beacon was formerly maintained on the summit (fn. 31) may be supported by the field name Bonfire Stock in Aston township. (fn. 32)

At the northern edge of Leegomery township, near Black butts, (fn. 33) was a multi-ditched rectangular enclosure, probably used in the Iron Age and Roman periods. (fn. 34)

Two healing wells are known. One on the Wrekin was dedicated to St. 'Hawthorn', perhaps the Welsh St. Arfan. (fn. 35) It was probably the 'fair fountain' recorded near the summit c. 1540 (fn. 36) and was still visited in the later 19th century. (fn. 37) St. Margaret's well, recorded in 1723, was in Leegomery township. (fn. 38) It was visited annually on Good Friday but destroyed in the mid 19th century. Local customs included 'clipping' All Saints' church on Shrove Tuesday; the children joined hands round the building while the boys gave a blast on toy trumpets. It was also customary to watch the sunrise from the top of the Wrekin on Easter Day. (fn. 39)

Charles I and his forces stopped at Wellington 19-20 September 1642 on the way from Nottingham to Shrewsbury. (fn. 40) Apley Castle, garrisoned for the king, was taken in March 1644 by Parliamentarian forces, who garrisoned Wellington church at the same time, but Apley and Wellington were recaptured by royalists a few days later. (fn. 41) Part of Prince Maurice's army was quartered at Wellington in February 1645. (fn. 42)

Distinguished natives (fn. 43) included William Withering (1742-99), (fn. 44) physician, botanist, and mineralogist; H. J. Gauntlett (1805-76), the composer; R. W. Eyton (1815-81), the historian; Sarah Smith (1832-1911), the writer better known as 'Hesba Stretton'; (fn. 45) C. G. Lawson (1851-82), the landscape painter; and D. H. S. Cranage (1866- 1957), antiquary and dean of Norwich. (fn. 46) Sir George Downing (c. 1684-1749), founder of Downing College, Cambridge, lived at Dothill in his youth.


  • 1. This art. was written 1981-3.
  • 2. O.S. Area Bk. (1882).
  • 3. S.R.O. 560/419, presumably referring to detached area no. 3 (6.7 a.) in O.S. Map 1/2,500, Salop. XXXVI. 1 (1882 edn.).
  • 4. L.J.R.O., B/A/15, Eyton upon the Weald Moors; Preston upon the Weald Moors; S.R.O. 14, tithe maps; 1856/1-7.
  • 5. Divided Parishes and Poor Law Amendment Act, 1882, 45 & 46 Vic. c. 58; 14th Ann. Rep. Local Govt. Bd. [C. 4515], pp. xlvii, 204, H.C. (1884-5), xxxii; O.S. Area Bk. (1885); O.S. Maps 6", Salop. XXX. SW.; XXXV. NE., SE., SW.; XXXVI. NE., NW. (1887-90 edn.).
  • 6. 24th Ann. Rep. Local Govt. Bd. [C. 7867], p. 274, H.C. (1895), 1; ibid. Suppl. [C. 7905], p. 13, H.C. (1895), li.
  • 7. O.S. Map 6", Salop. XXXVI. SW. (1903 edn.); 32nd Ann. Rep. Local Govt. Bd. [Cd. 1700], p. 341, H.C. (1903), xxiv; Salop Review Order, 1934 (Min. of Health order no. 77933).
  • 8. 32nd Ann. Rep. Local Govt. Bd. p. 341; O.S. Map 6", Salop. XXXVI. SW. (1929 edn.).
  • 9. Salop Review Order, 1934; O.S. Maps 6", SJ 60 NE., NW.; SJ 61 SE., SW. (1954 edn.).
  • 10. Below, Local Govt.
  • 11. Inf. from Wrekin District Council.
  • 12. 28th Ann. Rep. Local Govt. Bd. [C. 9444], p. 318, H.C. (1899), xxxvii; O.S. Maps 6", Salop. XXXVI. NW. (1902 edn.), NE., SE., SW. (1903 edns.). For the hist. of Hadley C.P. see below, Hadley, Local Govt. and Public Services.
  • 13. 32nd Ann. Rep. Local Govt. Bd. p. 341; O.S. Map 6", Salop. XXXVI. SW. (1929 edn.).
  • 14. Salop Review Order, 1934; O.S. Maps 6", SJ 60 NE., NW.; 61 SE., SW. (1954 edn.).
  • 15. Salop Order 1966 (Min. of Housing and Local Govt. order no. 22958).
  • 16. Salop Review Order, 1934; O.S. Map 6", SJ 61 SE. (1954 edn.).
  • 17. S.C.C., Planning Dept. file no. 051001, Wrekin District Council sec. to co. sec. 15 July 1976.
  • 18. Treated above: see Eyton; Preston.
  • 19. Treated below: see Hadley; Ketley; Lawley.
  • 20. Dawley New Town (Designation) Order 1963 (Stat. Instr. 1963, no. 64), accompanying map (copy in S.R.O. 2981, parcel VI).
  • 21. Dawley New Town (Designation) Amendment (Telford) Order 1968 (Stat. Instr. 1968, no. 1912), map accompanying Explanatory Note.
  • 22. V.C.H. Salop. i, frontispiece. Para. based on O.S. Maps 1/25,000, SJ 60; SJ 61 (1957-8 edn.); Inst. Geol. Sciences Map 1/25,000, Telford (1978 edn.).
  • 23. SA 1782-3, 2812; Trans. Caradoc & Severn Valley Field Club, xv. 74; R. E. Davies, Handbk. to the Wrekin (1895), 11 (copy in S.P.L.); V.C.H. Salop. i. 370, 412.
  • 24. SA 1069; A. H. A. Hogg, Hill Forts of Brit. (1975), 295-6; V.C.H. Salop. i. 369-70; K. M. Kenyon, 'Excavations on the Wrekin, 1939', Arch. Jnl. xcix. 99-109; idem, 'The Wrekin', ibid. cxiii. 208-9; W. Midlands Arch. News Sheet, xvi. 9-10.
  • 25. V.C.H. Salop. i. 216; Arch. Jnl. cxiii. 208-9.
  • 26. SA 1786, 2317, 2356.
  • 27. W. Midlands Arch. News Sheet, xvi. 9-10; G. Webster, The Cornovii (1975), 10, 26.
  • 28. G. Jones, 'Continuity Despite Calamity: The Heritage of Celtic Territorial Organization in Eng.' Jnl. Celtic Studies, iii. 23-9.
  • 29. V.C.H. Salop. ii. 23.
  • 30. Below.
  • 31. C. S. Burne, Salop. Folk-Lore (1883), 364.
  • 32. Barnard MSS., Raby Castle, box 12, bdle. 11, deed of 1653.
  • 33. So called in 1723: S.R.O. 972, parcel 236, Leegomery and Wappenshall map.
  • 34. SA 2000.
  • 35. St. Arfan (known only from place names) may have been Arthen, a son of the legendary Brychan: F. Arnold Forster, Studies in Ch. Dedications (1899), ii. 240. For other Arthens see Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, ed. P. C. Bartrum, 170, and refs. there given.
  • 36. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, ii. 83.
  • 37. Burne, Salop. Folk Lore, 420.
  • 38. c. O.S. Nat. Grid SJ 655 122: S.R.O. 972, parcel 236, Leegomery and Wappenshall map.
  • 39. Burne, op. cit. 322, 333, 335, 433.
  • 40. T.S.A.S. li. 28.
  • 41. Ibid. 1. 159-63.
  • 42. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1644-5, 297-8.
  • 43. Para. based on D.N.B. unless otherwise stated.
  • 44. For the yr. of his birth, par. reg. bap. 13 Apr. 1742 (transcript in S.P.L.).
  • 45. D.N.B. 1901-11.
  • 46. P.R.O., RG 10/2806, f. 60v.; Who Was Who, 1951-60, 252-3.