A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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Parts of Wrockwardine church predate the mid 12th century (fn. 1) and there was a priest in 1086. (fn. 2) Shrewsbury abbey claimed the church itself as a gift of Roger, earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1094). (fn. 3) Dependent chapels, referred to generally in two mid 12th-century confirmations of abbey property, (fn. 4) were not mentioned thereafter.
The church, valued at £10 in 1291, (fn. 5) was appropriated to Shrewsbury abbey in 1333 (fn. 6) but the first vicar was not instituted until 1341 and the vicarage was ordained only in 1351. (fn. 7) Patronage of the vicarage belonged to Shrewsbury abbey until 1540 when it passed to the Crown. In 1862 the lord chancellor exchanged it with the earl of Powis for the patronage of Holy Cross, Shrewsbury. (fn. 8) In 1889 Powis conveyed it to his brother R. C. Herbert, (fn. 9) whose great-grandson, V. M. E. Holt, owned it until 1981 (fn. 10) when the living was united with those of Longdon upon Tern, Rodington, and Uppington; Holt, with Lord Barnard, the Martyrs' Memorial and Church of England Trust, and the bishop of Lichfield, then became a joint patron of the united benefice. (fn. 11)
After 1351 the vicar had all offerings of wax and money; tithes of wool, lambs, flax, hemp, chickens, piglets, pigeons, geese, calves, pasture, cheese, dairy products, bees, gardens, fishponds, and mills (built or to be built); 'pennies of charity'; tithes of hay, apart from those of Allscott and Charlton (which were reserved to the abbey); and all other small tithes. (fn. 12) About 1490 the vicarage was worth £8 a year. (fn. 13)
The vicar's income in 1612 consisted of tithes of wool, lambs, flax, geese, pigs, apples, and garden produce; the tithe corn of all 'home closes'; the tithe hay except from Allscott and Charlton; Easter offerings; and 1½d. for every cow and calf. (fn. 14) In 1655 the small tithes were worth £28 a year and the glebe £2. (fn. 15) Richard Steventon apparently procured the living for Joshua Barnet, vicar 1656-62, and allowed him £20 a year for life, which was afterwards settled on the vicarage. (fn. 16) Steventon further endowed the vicarage with a £10 rent charged on the great tithes under the terms of his will dated 1658, to provide an 'able orthodox minister'. Edward Pemberton (d. 1680) left a rent charge of £6 13s. 4d. for similar purposes; it was discharged for £200 in 1689. (fn. 17)
In 1701 the vicarial tithes were basically those of 1612, but owners of 5 or 6 calves paid 2s. every two years, and owners of 10 paid the same yearly. Tithes of wool and lambs were paid in kind: one in seven or two in seventeen lambs were customary, with 3d. extra for 8 to 10 or 18 to 20 lambs. The seventh pig and goose were customarily paid to the vicar, whereas for other produce a tenth was usual. Some of the hay tithe was compounded for a modus. (fn. 18)
About 1708 the living was worth £49 and in 1799 £120 a year. (fn. 19) By 1792 tithes were paid in cash, although Wrockwardine moor, when mowed, was tithable in kind in 1829. (fn. 20) The vicar's net income 1828-31 averaged £376. (fn. 21) In 1838, at commutation, the vicar owned most of the hay, clover, and rye-grass tithes, all small tithes, and agistment of unprofitable cattle. His tithes were commuted to £343 15s. a year. Then, as in 1612, there was only about an acre of glebe. (fn. 22) The net value of the living fell by 1891 to £250, and to £190 by 1900, at which level it apparently remained for some years. In 1917 the living was worth £300, in 1932 £346. (fn. 23)
In 1351, when the bishop ordained the vicarage, Shrewsbury abbey undertook to build a new vicarage house opposite the existing rectory in Allscott within two years. It was to have a hall, two chambers, a kitchen, stable, and outbuildings. (fn. 24) By 1537 there was also a tithe barn. (fn. 25) In the early 17th century the 14th-century vicarage was in disrepair, but it was apparently remodelled during that century to produce the building visible in 1982, which was timberframed, two-bayed and two-storeyed, with a central stack. (fn. 26) That house was sold in 1806 and a new one bought opposite the church, (fn. 27) to which the house next door was added by the patron in 1832. (fn. 28) A new vicarage house was built south-east of the village in 1963. (fn. 29)
At Domesday and until c. 1095 Odelerius of Orléans, father of the historian Orderic Vitalis, was priest. Odelerius, one of the three learned clerks who accompanied Roger of Montgomery to England, also held Atcham church and probably lived in Shrewsbury where he served St. Peter's chapel. He was presumably given Wrockwardine in or after 1071. (fn. 30) Master John Charlton, rector by the 1290s and still in 1320, was apparently a married or widowed priest; he was probably related to the family who owned Charlton. (fn. 31) One pre-Reformation vicar is known to have been a graduate, John Dovy, 1463-72. (fn. 32)
In 1548 the service of Our Lady was suppressed. The 70-year-old stipendiary Thomas Fryer (fn. 33) had been receiving an annuity of 33s. 4d. from the abbot of Shrewsbury in 1534, when he was called dean of the church of Wrockwardine. (fn. 34) He was perhaps related to John Fryer, vicar from c. 1550 to 1573 or later, and Richard Freer, curate in 1579 and 1585. (fn. 35) In 1620 the vicar, Charles Duckworth, M.A., was not resident but there was a curate, William Holmes. (fn. 36) James Smyth, instituted 1635, 'deserted' the parish in the First Civil War. (fn. 37) Jonathan Gellibrand, minister from 1647, was ejected in 1655. (fn. 38) An inscription on the bell frame of 1656 prayed for the Church of England's deliverance from heresy, schism, 'self-opinion', and 'popish sanctity'. (fn. 39) In that year Joshua Barnet was appointed minister. After his ejection in 1662 he lived at Isombridge (in Ercall Magna) and preached both at home and elsewhere, being 'very moderate and . . . much beloved by the neighbouring clergy'. (fn. 40)
After 1662 almost all the vicars were graduates. Benjamin Reed, 1728-33, employed a curate in 1730. (fn. 41) Stephen Panting, 1765-82, resided at Wellington; he conducted two Sunday services with one sermon. There was communion on seven feast days, usually to fewer than 60 communicants. (fn. 42) Small sums were paid out of the sacrament money to the parish poor from the mid 18th century or earlier: £1 18s. 6d. in 1742 and £12 for the two years 1806 and 1807. (fn. 43) Joshua Gilpin, 1782-1828, was also incumbent of Buildwas 1796-1822; (fn. 44) he was presented through the personal interest of the Quaker Richard Reynolds. (fn. 45) For the sake of his son's education Gilpin lived at Newport c. 1799-1802. In 1799 he preached twice on Sundays in summer and once in winter, and administered communion every six weeks. (fn. 46) He was an admirer of Fletcher of Madeley, an Arminian Evangelical and Methodist of liberal opinions. (fn. 47) His works included an 'improved' edition of The Pilgrim's Progress, a collection of hymns, and a memorial to his son (d. 1806) that ran to many editions. (fn. 48) A good preacher, though with a weak voice, he drew only a small congregation. There were 80 communicants at Easter 1824. (fn. 49)
During Gilpin's incumbency the church was 'beautified' and repaired, a new gallery being added. (fn. 50) Between 1788, or earlier, and 1823 a parish orchestra was maintained, with violins, viola, bass viol, and clarinet, and there was a choir with up to 16 treble singers. (fn. 51)
Gilpin employed a curate. (fn. 52) So sometimes did his long-serving successor G. L. Yate, 1828-73; c. 1830 the curate was paid £50. (fn. 53) Yate maintained the same services and frequency of communion as Gilpin. Attendance was no higher than in the later 18th century; in 1843 there were only 39 regular communicants, with c. 63 at festivals. In 1843 the seating - with 63 free seats and 110 children's seats, apparently in the galleries - sufficed for the parish, servants sitting in appropriated seats. (fn. 54) In 1884 a small majority of seat holders voted to retain the 56 rented places. (fn. 55)
An iron mission chapel was built at Charlton after 1875. In 1898 there were Sunday afternoon services but by 1927 it was disused and items from it were given to Wellington workhouse. The building was sold c. 1932 and later converted to a house. (fn. 56) By 1908 Walcot, formerly in Withington ecclesiastical parish, had been transferred to Wrockwardine parish. (fn. 57)
A. A. Turreff, vicar 1906-45, (fn. 58) increased the Sunday services from three to four and there was monthly communion. (fn. 59) The church became more active in the village and a parish magazine was started; in the later 1920s and 30s there were c. 200 Easter communicants. (fn. 60)
Miss E. M. Clay, dissatisfied with the ministry and witness of the vicar in the 1950s, (fn. 61) began to hold meetings in Admaston, and in 1957 she devised St. Christopher's Hall there for Christian work. She had built the hall c. 1947 as a centre for women's devotional work. (fn. 62) Her friend Miss Norah Shoebotham continued the work, and in the early 1960s, under a later vicar, communion was celebrated there monthly. Norah Shoebotham subsequently left the residue of her estate to the hall, and part of the income was put towards the cost of a deaconess, who also worked in All Saints' parish, Wellington. In 1982 the hall, which remained closely connected with the two Anglican parishes (fn. 63) and with the Methodists of Admaston, was the meeting place of several groups and societies with Christian links.
For much of the period 1600-1900 the parish clerk was a member of the Houlston family. (fn. 64)
The lower part of the eastern 6 metres of the nave, constructed of large stone blocks, probably predates the mid 12th century. That early church had centrally placed, but not quite opposing, north and south doorways; the latter was the main entrance until 1854. No indications remain of the early Norman church's east end or fenestration.
Probably in the later 12th century the church was rebuilt with rubble walling on a cruciform plan with a central tower. The chancel was lit by three round-headed east windows and a north and a south one. Only the south window survives open, largely reconstructed in 1854; until then a square window occupied the space. The central tower was supported on four pointed arches, the piers being formed of ten columns that have been much altered by repairs after subsidences. Four pointed windows lit its upper storey. The transepts apparently had doorways of differing late Norman styles in their end walls near the western angles; only the northern one was open in 1982. Aisles were apparently planned, for doorways, again in differing late Norman styles, were provided in the west walls of the transepts; a straight joint in the north wall of the nave, close to the north-west pier, may echo the intention. The continuous masonry of the lower nave walls, however, shows that the plan was never executed.
Probably in the 14th century the nave was extended 5 metres west and had its north doorway blocked to allow the insertion of a two-light window, one possibly also being inserted in the south wall. (fn. 67) An east window, with image brackets below to either side, replaced the three 12thcentury windows in the chancel, which also received angle buttresses and a new plain trussedrafter roof. Probably in the later 14th century the north, or Cludde, chapel was built with openings from the chancel and north transept, the latter possibly screened. The chapel may have replaced an earlier one, the arch into the transept being possibly 13th-century. Traces of medieval painting have survived on the apex of the east wall. The south chapel was built in the late 15th or early 16th century, access to the chancel and transept being through half-arches, which acted as tower buttresses. In 1751 Samuel Fowler, vicar of Atcham, sold the chapel to Edward Pemberton (fn. 68) and it was thenceforth known as the Pemberton chapel. Fowler had a freehold estate in Wrockwardine that had belonged in 1650 to Eleanor, widow of Thomas Salter (d. 1623) and daughter of Edward Cludde the elder (d. 1614) of Orleton. (fn. 69)
At least three major restoration programmes were proposed in the 19th century but it is not clear how fully any of them was executed. In 1808 John Carline reported on the fabric and Samuel Smith of Madeley was asked to estimate the cost of repairs and building works including the erection of a new gallery, probably to replace an existing one at the west end. (fn. 70) David Parkes, the antiquary and artist, visited the church in 1812 and noted that the chancel had been 'beautified' and that overall the church had been repaired in 'an incongruous . . . fantastic Gothic' style. (fn. 71) By 1838 there was a south gallery, by 1854 a north one.
In 1854 Ewan Christian suggested radical alterations and repairs. His main proposal, the erection of a north aisle, (fn. 72) was not adopted, and others may have been similarly unfruitful. Work that was undertaken included the blocking of the south door and the opening of a west one; probably the insertion of north and south windows in the western part of the nave; the blocking of the south chapel's east door; the partial reroofing of the nave; the reflooring of the chancel; the removal of the north gallery; and the replacement of the pews by benches, some old pew panelling being used as wainscot. The pulpit, rebuilt to incorporate 17th-century panelling, was probably moved from the north-east corner of the nave into the chancel, and new communion rails were put in. The south chapel became the vestry, replacing one under the west gallery.
In 1879 it was again unsuccessfully proposed to build a north aisle, but during 1881-91 major work was done to designs by S. Pountney Smith and by Mr. Bowdler, both of Shrewsbury. The church was stripped of plaster and internally repointed; the tower was underpinned and the bells rehung; the nave was reroofed on the south side; windows were renewed. Either then or in 1854 a rood light was inserted high in the south wall; no predecessor is known, and it was apparently a purely antiquarian addition. (fn. 73)
In 1901 the west and south galleries were removed. (fn. 74) Further major repairs were done 1906-7 to designs by T. L. Moore, the north chapel being restored and the chancel and tower underpinned. (fn. 75) A chancel screen was installed in 1913. In 1931 communion rails dated 1685 were reinstated after being found at Wrockwardine Hall. (fn. 76)
The plate is all 19th-century or later. (fn. 77) There were four bells in 1549, five in 1686. Four remained in use in 1981, two of the early 14th century, one of 1616, and one of 1678. The fifth, of 1650, was dismounted in 1951 and replaced by a new bell. A sixth bell is of 1828. (fn. 78) A font, perhaps contemporary with the oldest parts of the church, was turned out in 1808. A pillar font or piscina, also 12th-century, was perhaps removed then too. Another font, probably late 12th-century and previously in a Wellington garden, was given to the church in 1934. (fn. 79) The church also has two 19th-century fonts, and a portable one (given c. 1931) formerly the property of Bishop King of Lincoln. (fn. 80) The chest may be 14th-century. (fn. 81) The sundial in the churchyard was made in 1750; a cast-iron base replaced a stone one in 1932.