A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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There was a priest at Wellington by 1086 (fn. 1) and Roger of Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1094), gave the church there to Shrewsbury abbey. (fn. 2) By the mid 12th century the incumbent received only part of the tithes, the rest having been appropriated by the abbey, (fn. 3) and in 1232 a vicarage was formally ordained by the bishop, the great tithes being divided between the abbey and a new prebend in Lichfield cathedral. Under the ordinance of 1232 the advowson of the vicarage was to be with the abbey, (fn. 4) with which it remained until surrendered to the Crown in 1540. (fn. 5) The Crown was patron in 1558, (fn. 6) but by 1561 the advowson belonged to Thomas Eyton (fn. 7) (d. 1582), and thereafter it descended with the manor of Eyton upon the Weald Moors (fn. 8) until 1881. In 1767 the vicarage was united with the rectory of Eyton upon the Weald Moors, then in the same patronage. (fn. 9) In 1881 T. S. Eyton conveyed the advowson to John Hotson. (fn. 10) It passed c. 1890 to Georgiana Hunt, (fn. 11) and c. 1900 to the incumbent, H. M. Marsh-Edwards. (fn. 12) It was vested in trustees c. 1904, (fn. 13) and in 1907 was bought by the evangelical Church Trust Fund Trust, with which it remained in 1981. (fn. 14) The patronage was suspended 1975-80 during a reconsideration of church organization in Telford, and a priest-in-charge served the cure. (fn. 15) In 1980 the patronage was restored and he was made vicar of Wellington and rector of Eyton. (fn. 16)
Until 1232 the incumbent received part of the great and small tithes, the tithes of some estates in the parish being wholly or partly reserved to Shrewsbury abbey. (fn. 17) From 1232 the vicar received the small tithes from all the parish but no great tithes. He was also entitled to altar dues, arable glebe, rents from tenants of 'church lands' (terre de ecclesia), tithes of mills, and pensions from chapels, (fn. 18) perhaps at Eyton and Preston. (fn. 19) In 1291 the vicar's income was given as £2 13s. 4d. (fn. 20) In 1535 the vicarage was valued at £9 5s. net. (fn. 21)
In 1639 the vicar had glebe and tithes. (fn. 22) In 1649 his income was £51 (fn. 23) and his gross income from Wellington was about the same c. 1693. (fn. 24) In 1758 the vicarial glebe was valued at c. £50 (fn. 25) and in 1767 the incumbent's gross income was c. £118 from Wellington and c. £45 from Eyton, the total being deemed hardly sufficient to maintain a minister. (fn. 26) By 1799, however, it was c. £400. (fn. 27) In 1807 the incumbent gave the Eyton rectorial glebe (almost 18 a.) and the site of Wellington vicarage to Thomas Eyton in exchange for a new vicarage in Wellington and c. 7½ a. of land there. (fn. 28) The vicar sold 2 a. to Thomas Eyton in 1808, (fn. 29) and in 1842 his glebe totalled 40½ a. (fn. 30)
On the eve of commutation all the vicarial tithes of Wellington parish were payable in kind except those of Apley and Dothill townships, from each of which an annual modus of £1 was paid. In Aston township 43 a. were prescriptively exempt from vicarial tithes (fn. 31) and in Eyton township (in Eyton and Wellington parishes) 87 a. were free of all tithes. In Eyton township within Eyton parish no tithes were payable for calves and 1d. for each sow, and the incumbent received a modus of 7s. 6d. for the hay tithes of Eyton moor (from which Eyton parish owed no other tithes). In Preston township within Wellington parish the vicar received 1d. for every stall of bees in lieu of tithe honey, 1d. for every colt, and eggs at Easter in lieu of tithe poultry. In the years 1838-42 the incumbent's tithes from Wellington and Eyton parishes were commuted to £708 12s. 3d. (fn. 32) and in 1843 his net income from both parishes was £842. (fn. 33) In 1856 he assigned £10 a year from tithe rent charge to the incumbent of Hadley. (fn. 34) In 1884 tithe rent charge still provided most of his income, supplemented by c. £123 rent (fn. 35) from letting 17 a. of the 40½-a. vicarial glebe and c. £18 from offerings and fees. In 1915 the vicarial glebe was smaller by 13 a. but there was then investment income of £69 2s. 2d. a year from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and £10 7s. 2d. from Queen Anne's Bounty. Offerings and fees averaged £45. (fn. 36) The united living was worth £519 in 1932. (fn. 37)
There was a vicarage house by 1419. (fn. 38) The ground floor consisted in 1689 of a hall, kitchen, pantry, buttery, and brew house. (fn. 39) In 1807 the old vicarage, immediately south of the church, (fn. 40) was deemed unfit. The patron had recently provided a new one just north of Watling Street. (fn. 41) The vicar moved to a house called Melrose, in Haygate Road, in 1920 (fn. 42) and to 6 Queen Street c. 1922. (fn. 43) His successor lived at Crescent House, Park Street, from 1923 toc. 1931, when a new vicarage was built in the grounds. (fn. 44)
Only one medieval vicar is known to have been a graduate: William Grinshill, 1419 - c. 1430, (fn. 45) was an Oxford bachelor of canon law. (fn. 46) Like him, several others had local surnames: Philip of Berrington, 1302 - c. 1329, (fn. 47) John of Humphreston, fl. 1349, (fn. 48) Thomas Grinshill, 1403 - c. 1419, (fn. 49) and John Hussey, fl. 1498-1519. (fn. 50) John Hychecok, fl. 1366 - c. 1403, (fn. 51) was granted a year's leave of absence in 1366 and two years' in 1373. (fn. 52) Thomas Grinshill was previously vicar of Wrockwardine. (fn. 53) William Grinshill was also rector of Preston upon the Weald Moors, 1422-8, (fn. 54) and official to the dean of St. Mary's, Shrewsbury. (fn. 55) Hussey may have been the same man who was master of Battlefield college c. 1520. (fn. 56)
In 1437 there was a guild of the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary, which owned 26 messuages, 10 a. of heath, and 6 a. of meadow. (fn. 57) By 1548 all the property lay within the parish and consisted mostly of houses; there were also 3 a. of land in the open fields and several small enclosures. (fn. 58) The revenues were divided between the guild (67s. 4d. net) and the service of Our Lady (100s. 6d. net). Both maintained stipendiaries: the guild's priest celebrated masses and assisted the vicar, Our Lady's priest celebrated at the Lady altar. The latter also had a living elsewhere and kept a free grammar school. (fn. 59) A small separate endowment, worth 3s. 10d. a year, maintained a lamp and some lights. (fn. 60) Those endowments were sold by the Crown in 1549 to John Cupper and Richard Trevor, (fn. 61) acting for Alan Charlton, (fn. 62) uncle of Francis Charlton of Apley (fn. 63) and mentioned as vicar in 1535. (fn. 64)
After the Reformation the incumbents often had a family connexion with the patrons. Four vicars were Eytons: Thomas, fl. 1558-62, (fn. 65) John, 1689-1709, (fn. 66) Robert, 1713-51, (fn. 67) and John, 1802- 23. (fn. 68) Henry Wood, 1709-12, (fn. 69) was probably a relative of William Wood, the patron's guardian, and perhaps a 'warming pan' vicar to await the presentation of the patron's cousin (fn. 70) Robert. John Rocke, 1782-1802, (fn. 71) was the patron's uncle, (fn. 72) and Edward Pryce Owen, 1823-41, (fn. 73) was Rocke's nephew. (fn. 74) Between 1666 and 1802 the living was always held in plurality except 1709-13, 1751-60, and 1767-73. Before the union of the livings in 1767 Wellington was sometimes held with Eyton (fn. 75) but more often with other parishes. (fn. 76) The most conspicuous pluralist was Robert Eyton, concurrently vicar of Wem (from 1718), (fn. 77) a prebendary of Hereford (from 1728), and archdeacon of Ely (from 1742). (fn. 78) Some pluralists were probably non-resident in the later 17th and 18th century, especially if they held a living other than Eyton. William Langley, 1662-89, (fn. 79) was buried at Stoke upon Tern in 1689 (fn. 80) and Robert Eyton died at Wem in 1751. (fn. 81) John Rocke was living in Shrewsbury in 1799 but stayed in Wellington parish at weekends to take the services. (fn. 82) On the other hand John Eyton resided c. 1693, (fn. 83) Richard Smith, 1751-73, (fn. 84) lived continuously in the parish, (fn. 85) and so, probably, did Stephen Panting, 1778-82. (fn. 86) John Eyton, instituted 1802, and his successors resided, at least from 1807 when the new vicarage was built.
A curate was often, perhaps usually, employed, whether or not the vicar resided. The earliest known was mentioned in 1558. (fn. 87) Henry Gauntlett, an Evangelical divine, was curate 1804-5, (fn. 88) Patrick Bronte was curate briefly in 1809, (fn. 89) and H. Johnson Marshall, curate in 1843, (fn. 90) wrote tracts on religion as applied to social issues. (fn. 91) In 1856 there were two curates at All Saints', a senior and a junior. (fn. 92) In 1981 a deaconess served part-time but the curacy, then vacant, was not filled until 1983. (fn. 93)
Seven days after Elizabeth I's accession three parishioners were presented for not receiving communion on Sundays and festivals; it is not known whether they were papists or protestant dissenters. (fn. 94) Puritanism was encouraged by Francis Wright, (fn. 95) vicar 1621-59, (fn. 96) and perhaps by William Langley, (fn. 97) 1662-89. John Eyton was said c. 1693 to be 'too free in conversation' and much in debt. (fn. 98) Richard Smith, 1751-73, did his best to discourage Methodists and Quakers. (fn. 99) In 1772 there were two Sunday services, with one sermon in winter and two in summer, and prayers every Wednesday and Friday and at festivals. Communion was administered monthly and at Easter, Whit Sunday, Christmas, and Good Friday. There were usually c. 70 communicants. (fn. 100) Thomas Warter, 1773-7, published a sermon. (fn. 101) Nevertheless the late 18th century in Wellington was said to have been a period of social immorality and religious indifference. A remarkable revival was effected by the young John Eyton, vicar 1802-23, who worked closely with the Wesleyans. (fn. 102) Nevertheless at the time of his early death there were usually only c. 40 communicants, though at Easter as many as 160. (fn. 103) Wellington's population growth since 1772 may have assisted nonconformity rather than the Anglican church.
Eyton's successor Owen was best known as a painter and etcher. (fn. 104) In 1843 there were three services every Sunday and another on Wednesday evenings, but the proportion of communicants to the population had fallen further, (fn. 105) a decline presumably accelerated by the opening of Christ Church and Ketley chapels of ease during Owen's incumbency. Under his successor Benjamin Banning, 1841-80, (fn. 106) ecclesiastical parishes were formed for Hadley (1858), Christ Church (1859), Lawley (1867), and Ketley (1880). (fn. 107) Moreover in 1874 Walcot was transferred to Withington ecclesiastical parish and Aston to Uppington. (fn. 108)
In 1870 a proposal to establish a surpliced choir aroused controversy (fn. 109) but one existed by 1883 when John Slaney left stock for its maintenance. (fn. 110) Thereafter the services attained a high musical standard, (fn. 111) still evident in 1981. (fn. 112) A. Z. Grace, instituted as vicar in 1881, (fn. 113) lost five children from diphtheria, became ill, took to drink, (fn. 114) and was suspended in 1884. (fn. 115) He resigned four years later. (fn. 116) H. M. Marsh-Edwards, 1897-1901, (fn. 117) who was responsible for an ambitious restoration of the church's interior, resigned before his liaison with a local servant girl became public knowledge. (fn. 118) Soon afterwards he was made a bishop in the 'Old Catholic Church of the East'. (fn. 119) In the late 19th century All Saints' was considered 'higher' than Christ Church, but from J. S. Moore's incumbency, 1901-23, (fn. 120) the successive vicars were decidedly Evangelical. In 1981 congregations of c. 200 were usual at Sunday morning services and were twice as large at the monthly family service. A church hall immediately south of the churchyard, built in 1903 by Moore's efforts, was burned down by vandals in 1978. A new hall, used solely for church purposes, opened on the site in 1980. A church hall built at Dothill c. 1962 was used as a Sunday school and by children's and youth groups. (fn. 121)
The ancient parish church of ALL SAINTS (fn. 122) was demolished in 1787. (fn. 123) At least one window dated from the 12th century. (fn. 124) The building comprised a chancel and nave, probably undivided, to which broad north and south aisles had been added at different dates; there was an embattled tower at the west end of the north aisle. The east window of the chancel was of the earlier 14th century. The east windows of the aisles were perhaps 15th-century. A 16th-century monument with recumbent effigies, inscribed to William Charlton and his wife, stood in the chancel on the north side. (fn. 125) It was removed at the demolition and later placed in Holy Cross church, Shrewsbury. (fn. 126) There was a west gallery by 1726. (fn. 127) There were three bells in 1553 (fn. 128) and six in 1758, all dated 1713. (fn. 129) Of the plate there survives a silver paten of 1717 given in 1733. (fn. 130)
In 1747 there were detailed plans for rebuilding the church. (fn. 131) It was not until 1788, however, that a new church designed by George Steuart was begun (fn. 132) east of the churchyard (fn. 133) on a site conveyed by George Forester. In 1790 the building was finished, consecrated, and dedicated to All Saints. (fn. 134) Built of stone in the classical style, it consists of an aisled nave of five bays with eastern apse. The west front of three bays has Tuscan pilasters and a pediment, above which is a square tower of two stages with domed roof. In 1981 there were five bells from the old church, another dated 1798, and two dated 1890. (fn. 135) There are north, south and west galleries supported by iron columns that were originally exposed. The pulpit was in the centre of the nave in 1823. (fn. 136) Choir stalls were built at the east end, perhaps in 1866. (fn. 137) In alterations of 1898-9 the interior was elaborately reordered; the iron columns of the galleries were encased in arcades (fn. 138) and a heavy chancel screen was erected. It was removed in 1956. (fn. 139)
A chapel of ease called CHRIST CHURCH was consecrated in 1839. The site, on the south-east side of the town, had been bought in 1837 by the Church Building Commissioners from Lord Forester and building costs, £3,600, (fn. 140) were met by voluntary contributions, augmented by £1,550 in grants. (fn. 141) The living was then a curacy in the gift of the vicar of Wellington. (fn. 142) The chapel was licensed for baptisms and burials from 1839 and for marriages from 1859, (fn. 143) when a district chapelry was assigned to it (fn. 144) comprising the south-east quarter of Wellington township, most of Arleston township, and parts of Leegomery and Watling Street townships. (fn. 145) The living became a perpetual curacy in 1859 (from 1868 a titular vicarage) (fn. 146) with the vicar of All Saints' as patron. (fn. 147) The cure was served by a priest-in-charge 1972-80 and was thereafter a vicarage. (fn. 148) In 1975 part of the parish was transferred to the new parish of central Telford. (fn. 149)
In 1893 the curacy was endowed with £1,000 raised by voluntary contributions, (fn. 150) which yielded £35 a year in 1851. Pew rents were calculated at £105 in 1851. (fn. 151) The living was worth £197 net in 1865. (fn. 152) In 1874 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners gave annual tithe rent charge of £135 gross, (fn. 153) part of the former endowment of Wellington prebend. (fn. 154) In 1892 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners gave £120 capital to meet a benefaction, (fn. 155) and in 1895 the living's net value was £230. (fn. 156) A large parsonage house north-west of the church (fn. 157) had been built by 1843. (fn. 158) It was replaced in 1980 by a new vicarage in Church Walk. (fn. 159)
In 1843 there were two services every Sunday and at Christmas and Good Friday. Communion was given monthly and on Christmas Day. (fn. 160) In 1851 average adult attendances were 280 in the mornings and 550 in the evenings. (fn. 161) In 1856 there were 35 communicants on average. (fn. 162) An assistant curate was employed by 1879 (fn. 163) but none after c. 1974. (fn. 164) Before the incumbency of Thomas Owen, 1887-1903, services were infrequent; he increased their number and their 'outward reverence', reordering the church's interior and introducing a surpliced choir. (fn. 165) In 1887 there were three and four services on alternate Sundays. Communion was weekly. (fn. 166) Owen was Evangelical and an eloquent preacher. (fn. 167) In the earlier 20th century the number of communicants rose. (fn. 168) J. P. Abbey, vicar 1913-62, (fn. 169) was at first assumed to be Evangelical but he soon became Anglo-Catholic, and his tradition remained in 1981. (fn. 170) Two years after his death the bishop collated by lapse, (fn. 171) the patron (the vicar of All Saints') being the nominee of an Evangelical body.
The church, designed by Thomas Smith of Madeley (fn. 172) in the lancet Gothic style, is of light yellow brick and resembles his earlier church at Ironbridge. As originally arranged it comprised a chancel (a mere recess with font attached to the wall), (fn. 173) a nave with integral north and south aisles, north lobby, and south vestry, and a west tower. In 1915 there was one bell of 1838. (fn. 174) There were north, south, and west galleries, the last occupied by the choir. (fn. 175) In 1888 (fn. 176) the communion table was raised on steps and choir stalls were built at the east end. (fn. 177) A choir vestry was added at the west in 1893. (fn. 178) The north and south galleries were taken down c. 1970. (fn. 179)