A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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Bradford, the 'broad ford' (mentioned in the 1140s) from which Shropshire's most extensive hundred took its name, (fn. 1) lies within the manor and parish of Ercall Magna where the road from High Ercall to Shrewsbury crosses the river Roden. (fn. 2) Bradford bridge apparently remained the meeting place of the hundred court until the early 17th century. (fn. 3)
Bradford hundred was formed by an amalgamation of the Domesday hundreds of Hodnet and Wrockwardine, respectively the north and north-western and the south and south-eastern parts of the resulting hundred. (fn. 4) The suggestion that Wrockwardine hundred was conterminous with an ancient British area called Ercall (fn. 5) must contend with the likelihood that the hundred boundaries of Domesday Shropshire were little more than a century old. (fn. 6) The estates forming Wrockwardine hundred amounted to 173 5/12 hides in 1086, those forming Hodnet amounted to 967/8. In 1086 the caput of each hundred was the manor after which it was named. Before the Conquest both manors had been held by King Edward the Confessor; in Wrockwardine, and doubtless in Hodnet too, Earl Edwin had received the 'third penny' from the hundred profits. By 1086 both manors, with all the hundred profits, belonged to Roger, earl of Shrewsbury, and they escheated to the Crown in 1102 after the rebellion of his son Earl Robert. (fn. 7)
Hodnet and Wrockwardine hundreds were amalgamated in the mid or later 12th century, for Wrockwardine still existed c. 1140 (fn. 8) but Bradford hundred had been created by 1203. (fn. 9) The reason for the union is not clear, for even before it took place Wrockwardine was the county's largest hundred. (fn. 10) The change may, however, have served the convenience of the great feudatories with lands and fees in both hundreds, pre-eminent among whom were the Pantulfs of Wem (whose barony lay almost wholly within the two hundreds) (fn. 11) and the FitzAlans of Oswestry. (fn. 12) The FitzAlans' quasihereditary shrievalty (fn. 13) was certainly used to reinforce the family's power elsewhere in Shropshire by modifying the county's administrative geography. (fn. 14) Between 1180 and 1201 the brothers-in-law (fn. 15) Hugh Pantulf and William FitzAlan (II) were successive sheriffs, (fn. 16) and they may have caused the hundreds to be amalgamated during that period. More precisely, the choice of Bradford as the new hundred meeting place may suggest the year 1190–1 when William of Ercall (alias of Hadley), lord (if the elder of that name) of the manor of Ercall Magna, was William FitzAlan (II)'s under-sheriff; (fn. 17) Ercall was probably (fn. 18) a second cousin of FitzAlan's half-sister, (fn. 19) the wife of Hugh Pantulf. (fn. 20)
The composition of Bradford hundred never differed greatly from that of the hundreds combined to produce it, (fn. 21) but there were peripheral gains and losses. The transfer of Sheriffhales from Staffordshire may have been initiated by Earl Roger or by one of his sons in the late 11th century. (fn. 22) In the event, however, only part of the manor was transferred, with resulting administrative anomalies over the centuries. (fn. 23) Sheriffhales seems to have been taxed with Cuttlestone hundred (Staffs.) in 1327, (fn. 24) 1332, (fn. 25) and 1381, (fn. 26) but by the later 17th century the Shropshire and Staffordshire parts were being taxed with Bradford and Cuttlestone hundreds respectively. (fn. 27) Tyrley's transfer to Pirehill hundred (Staffs.) may have taken place early in the 12th century and for the Pantulfs' convenience. (fn. 28) Cheswardine was probably gained from Pirehill hundred when Henry I acquired that manor from Robert of Stafford. (fn. 29)
Buildwas, exempted from Condover hundred in the late 12th century when Richard I granted Buildwas abbey quittance of suit at the hundred court, (fn. 30) was treated as in Bradford hundred in 1236. (fn. 31) Emstrey (including Cronkhill and Chilton) was accounted part of Condover hundred until 1672 or later; by 1788, however, it was apparently being rated with the rest of Atcham parish in Bradford hundred. (fn. 32)
Albrightlee and Longner were in Wrockwardine hundred in 1086. (fn. 33) Longner became part of the 'old liberties' of Shrewsbury (fn. 34) presumably at an early date. Pimley, in Bradford hundred by 1255, (fn. 35) seems to have been incorporated within the borough liberties in 1495, (fn. 36) and Albrightlee, probably in Bradford hundred c. 1285, (fn. 37) may also have been incorporated in the liberties in 1495. (fn. 38) Nevertheless Albrightlee may have been taxed with the liberties of Shrewsbury in 1327, (fn. 39) and it and Pimley were also said to be in Bradford hundred in 1515. The hundred and the borough liberties seem then to have overlapped. (fn. 40)
Although in the Domesday hundred of Baschurch (later Pimhill), Crudgington (fn. 41) and Moreton Corbet (fn. 42) were taxed with Bradford hundred in 1327; (fn. 43) Crudgington was probably, (fn. 44) and Moreton Corbet was certainly, in Bradford hundred by 1255. (fn. 45) Preston Brockhurst in Baschurch hundred was a divided manor in 1086; (fn. 46) the greater part became a member of Moreton Corbet (fn. 47) and, probably in the 14th century, was attracted into Bradford hundred. (fn. 48) Charlton (in Shawbury) (fn. 49) also passed from Baschurch to Bradford. Acton Reynald, Besford, and parts of Preston Brockhurst (fn. 50) were the only parts of Shawbury parish never in Bradford hundred. (fn. 51)
Bradford hundred comprised a third of the area of the medieval county and it was assessed to the 1381 poll tax in at least two divisions, the northern one (fn. 52) closely resembling the permanent division fixed two centuries later. (fn. 53) By 1590 the hundred contained 20 of the 100 allotments into which the county was divided for militia and rating; in 1638 Bradford's rating was increased to 231/8 of the county's 100 allotments. (fn. 54) Bradford hundred was said in 1575 to be 'as large as any two within the shire', (fn. 55) and divisions for magistrates' and other administrative business were accordingly necessary at a comparatively early date. (fn. 56) At first the divisions were temporary or ad hoc. The hundred was, for example, divided into halves for the militia musters of 1539 but not for those of 1542. By 1590, however, North and South divisions had been fixed, and they were not seriously modified before 1836. (fn. 57) The North division was used for tax assessment and collection in the earlier 17th century, (fn. 58) and after the establishment of a Presbyterian ecclesiastical system it was adopted as the area of the fourth classis with a meeting place at Whitchurch. (fn. 59)
In the 1630s the county magistrates used the North and South divisions and even subdivided the North division into two: one half, closely resembling the later Drayton division, comprised the five eastern allotments of Hodnet, Moreton Say, Stoke and (Child's) Ercall, Drayton, and Cheswardine. (fn. 60) North and South seem to have been permanently subdivided by the mid 18th century. By 1788, and probably earlier, the North was divided into Drayton and Whitchurch divisions, the South into Newport and Wellington divisions, for collection of the county rate. (fn. 61) In Bradford North the magistrates used the Drayton and Whitchurch divisions for their Michaelmas licensing sessions between 1759 and 1768 and again in the early 19th century; in Bradford South separate licensing sessions were held for the Newport and Wellington divisions from c. 1805. (fn. 62) The four magistrates' divisions were increased to five in 1836 when Wem division was formed from the Whitchurch division and detached parts of Pimhill hundred. (fn. 63) The hundred name remained in use in association with the five petty-sessional divisions until the 1860s; (fn. 64) the divisions themselves lasted until 1954. (fn. 65) The coroner's district called Bradford North was absorbed in one called North Shropshire in 1972 (fn. 66) and that called Bradford South and Brimstree (Shifnal) was renamed East Shropshire in 1974. (fn. 67)
Bradford hundred seems to have been worth 20 and 30 marks a year in the 13th and 14th centuries. (fn. 68) The Barons' War may temporarily have reduced its worth to only £5 a year, the value ascertained in 1264, and after the Black Death its value fell to under £8. (fn. 69) In the 15th century the value evidently fell: it was leased for £6 a year in 1435 and was said to be worth only 4 marks a year net in 1498. (fn. 70) In 1543 the lord of the hundred was said to be entitled to the forfeited chattels of felons, fugitives, warrantors, and outlaws. (fn. 71)
In 1267 the Crown granted the hundred for life to Walter of Pedwardine (fn. 72) (kt. c. 1270), (fn. 73) a minor landowner (fn. 74) of some service to the royalists during the civil war (fn. 75) and to the FitzAlans. (fn. 76) Pedwardine (d. 1297) was to render 8 marks a year at the Exchequer. In 1292 he was temporarily deprived of the hundred, which he had made over to the bailiff for 36 marks a year 'to the injury of all the freeholders'; the bailiff, William Cressett, was then under indictment for murder. (fn. 77) In Edward I's last years the hundred was held by Walter de Kyngeshemede during pleasure, and in 1309 Edward II granted it to John de Vaux for life. (fn. 78) In 1310 Vaux exchanged it with the king's cook Richard of Cleobury for the keeping of Kinver forest and manor (Staffs.). Cleobury, like Vaux, was to hold the hundred for life; perhaps for non-payment of the farm, however, (fn. 79) he was deprived, and in the 1320s the hundred was committed to the sheriff or other accountants during pleasure. (fn. 80) In 1327 it was granted for life to Queen Isabel in augmentation of her dower by 24 marks a year. (fn. 81)
The queen was deprived of her property after the earl of March's downfall in 1330, (fn. 82) and in 1331 Edward III granted the hundred in tail male to Sir John de Neville of Hornby (Lanes.), who had helped to arrest March. On Neville's death without male issue in 1335 the hundred escheated to the Crown and was evidently restored to Richard of Cleobury, who had been pardoned his arrears in 1327. (fn. 83)
In 1338 Edward III granted the hundred in tail male to his chamberlain Lord Ferrers of Groby (fn. 84) and it remained in private hands almost continuously thereafter. It descended with the barony of Ferrers of Groby until 1445 (fn. 85) and thereafter with the manor of Tettenhall Regis (Staffs.). (fn. 86) In 1601–2 Francis Newport (kt. 1603), one of the county's leading magistrates and probably its richest gentleman, (fn. 87) bought the hundred from Sir Humphrey Ferrers; at the same time he also acquired the Crown's reversionary rights on any failure of the heirs male of the 1338 grantee. (fn. 88) Sir Francis died seised in fee in 1623 (fn. 89) and the hundred then passed to his son Sir Richard, cr. Baron Newport 1642. On his death in 1651 the hundred evidently passed to his son and heir Francis, (fn. 90) but the story is confused. In 1653 it was surveyed as part of Charles I's former possessions, then settled on the Commonwealth trustees; at the same time the profits of courts and all the royalties were said to belong to the inheritance of Francis Newport, then known as 'Mr.' Newport, of Eyton on Severn. (fn. 91) In 1661 Charles II leased the hundred, with three others (Condover, Pimhill, and Stottesdon) then remaining in the Crown, to Richard Salter the younger for 31 years. Later all four hundreds were included in Queen Catherine's jointure. (fn. 92) In 1672, however, the Crown granted and confirmed all four hundreds, with return of writs, to Francis, Lord Newport, (fn. 93) and he was created Viscount Newport of Bradford in 1675 and earl of Bradford in 1694. (fn. 94) After 1672 Bradford hundred evidently descended with the Newports' peerage dignities until 1734 when it passed away from the 3rd earl of Bradford's legitimate heirs, descending with the manor of Harley. (fn. 95) Although they did not own the hundred, the Newports' legitimate heirs, the Bridgemans, were later created Baron (1794), and earl of (1815), Bradford. (fn. 96) In 1805 the hundred belonged to the earl of Darlington, (fn. 97) cr. marquess (1827) and duke (1833) of Cleveland. (fn. 98) On his death in 1842 it passed to his son Henry, the 2nd duke (d. 1864), during whose time the hundred court ceased to function. (fn. 99)
Twice-yearly (eventually annual) great courts and three-weekly small courts for the hundred were held throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. (fn. 100) In almost exactly half of the manors in the hundred, however, the jurisdiction of the great court was curtailed during the 13th century by courts leet that exempted them from the sheriff's tourn in the great hundred. (fn. 101) The exempt manors were the more extensive ones, accounting perhaps for some two thirds of the hundred's area. In nearly every instance, whether a manor became exempt depended on the ease with which leet jurisdiction alternative to the hundred's could be provided and so on the manorial lord's status and position in the landowning and feudal hierarchies. Almost invariably the hundred's greater landowners and tenants in chief secured leet jurisdiction for the courts of their demesne manors. Contrariwise minor tenants in chief and (with a notable group of exceptions) (fn. 102) lords of subinfeudated manors were generally held to suit at the hundred court: indeed the chief or the mesne lord of a place might, at subinfeudation, pass down to its terre tenant the specific duty, inter alia, of suit to the hundred. (fn. 103) Between the end of the 13th century and the end of the 16th very few manors became exempt from the hundred or lost their exemption.
Almost half of the manors exempt from suit to the hundred were in ecclesiastical ownership: properties of the see of Coventry and Lichfield (fn. 104) and of the abbeys of Shrewsbury, (fn. 105) Lilleshall, (fn. 106) Haughmond, (fn. 107) Combermere (Ches.), (fn. 108) and Buildwas. (fn. 109) Some abbeys realized their privileges only gradually: Lilleshall, Haughmond, and Combermere each owned an estate that owed or did suit to the hundred in 1255, though none of them is known to have done suit after the 13th century; (fn. 110) another Haughmond property, however, never achieved exemption. (fn. 111) Also privileged were four large manors of former royal demesne (fn. 112) and the demesne estates of the FitzAlans, barons of Oswestry, (fn. 113) the Dunstanvilles, barons of Castle Combe (Wilts.), (fn. 114) and the Warennes, cadets and tenants in serjeanty of the earls of Surrey. (fn. 115) The Audleys and the Erdingtons (fn. 116) acquired manors in the hundred (fn. 117) that were already, (fn. 118) or soon became, privileged liberties. Marchamley for example, unlike the other subinfeudated manors of the FitzAlan fee, became exempt from suit to the hundred; it did so almost certainly because the Audleys held it in demesne, (fn. 119) whereas their manors of Whixall, Gravenhunger, and Woore were subinfeudated and continued to owe suit. The barons of Wem were in fact alone in securing immunity not only for their demesne manors (fn. 120) but also for the barony's extensive subinfeudated estates, virtually all of which were attracted to the leet courts (Hinstock (fn. 121) being the main one) of an unusually compact and highly organized fee.
Manors that were held to suit to the hundred comprised virtually all the subinfeudated estates of the FitzAlan fee (fn. 122) including virtually all the manors, whether held in demesne or subinfeudated, of the Chetwynds, (fn. 123) the FitzAlans' tenants in fee. (fn. 124) Three other manors, (fn. 125) though not part of the Chetwynd fee, were held of families who elsewhere held of the Chetwynds and did hundred suit. (fn. 126) Suit also continued to be owed by three manors held in chief as serjeanties. (fn. 127) Hodnet, held in chief by the Hodnets as a serjeanty of the honor of Montgomery, (fn. 128) was said to owe suit in 1255, and all the rest of the Hodnet fee continued to do suit. (fn. 129) So too did Poynton, another member of the honor, (fn. 130) and the four manors in the hundred held for castle guard at Montgomery. (fn. 131) Three subinfeudated manors held of baronies whose capita lay in other counties (fn. 132) also did suit.
Although all the Hodnet fee was said to do suit in 1255, Sir Otes of Hodnet's position seems to have been anomalous: the hundred jurors included him among the lords who exercised jurisdiction in respect of the assize of bread and of ale; all the other lords so listed (fn. 133) had leet courts in manors exempt from the great hundred. In 1292, though he had no charter therefor, William of Hodnet was probably allowed the jurisdiction and it seems evident that a court leet, thus developed, allowed Hodnet manor to escape the great hundred's jurisdiction. The Hodnets' concern to establish the liberty was evidently limited to the central part of their fee for its outlying members continued to owe suit to the great hundred. In 1592 the heir of John Vernon (d. 1591) (fn. 134) of Hodnet owed personal suit at the great hundred, but probably only for the render of his 2s. vicontiel rent. (fn. 135)
A few other manors of the types that seem normally to have owed suit in fact escaped the duty: two serjeanties and a knight's fee, all held in chief, (fn. 136) and three subinfeudated manors. Two of the three (fn. 137) last mentioned manors, Moreton Say and Stoke upon Tern, were members of the barony of Weobley (Herefs.). In 1243 Hugh de Say (d. c. 1249), member of a family (fn. 138) who were probably cadets of the 12th-century barons of Clun, withdrew his manor of Moreton Say from suit of the hundred. His brother Walter's manor of Stoke upon Tern, however, continued to do suit. Later Hugh's son Robert held Moreton under his older brother Hugh, to whom their uncle Walter's manors passed. Shortly before 1255 Hugh exchanged his Shropshire estates with John de Verdun for Irish lands. Verdun was coheir of the barony of Weobley (fn. 139) and the terre tenancy of Stoke thus passed to one of its overlords, who soon afterwards (fn. 140) withdrew the manor from suit to the great hundred. The changes may have affected Bletchley and other subinfeudated members of Moreton and Stoke. Bletchley did suit to the hundred in 1255 but is not known to have done so thereafter. In the earlier 14th century the manor seems to have had only a court baron (fn. 141) but between 1376 and 1390 the Corbets of Moreton Corbet evidently held a court leet there. (fn. 142) By c. 1400, however, both Bletchley and Moreton Say were within the leet jurisdiction of Stoke. (fn. 143)
The personal status of the great landowners, and the imperceptible ways in which it was used to secure privilege, gradually ceased to suffice for the creation of liberties. Privileges arrogated by or granted to such men and their heirs in the 13th century became attached to their estates and were allowed to their successors in the 14th, but by then royal charters were necessary for the acquisition of new franchises. Between the 1250s and the 1350s the Corbets of Moreton Corbet added several manors to their inheritance, including (in Bradford hundred) Bletchley, the half of Lawley in the barony of Wem, and Shawbury. Moreton Corbet, part of the Chetwynd fee, was perhaps their only manor held to suit to the great hundred, (fn. 144) and in 1356 Robert Corbet (II) obtained a charter granting him a court leet ('view of frankpledge'); (fn. 145) thereafter the manor was exempt. Richard Corbet of Moreton owed personal suit in 1592 but probably only for the render of his 2s. vicontiel rent. (fn. 146)
Until the earlier 17th century it was probably normal for the hundred to be leased. (fn. 147) William Greene bought a lease from Sir Humphrey Ferrers in 1590 and held the courts as steward. Immediately he tried to enforce neglected suit to the hundred leet from Chetwynd and other manors but was resisted by 'divers persons of great worship and wealth'. (fn. 148) His efforts were continued by a new steward, (fn. 149) but it is evident that similar difficulties over the enforcement of suit and the liability of various manors to render vicontiel rents recurred throughout the 17th century and in the early 18th century. (fn. 150) Persistently defaulting manors like Chetwynd may eventually have succeeded in permanently evading the jurisdiction of the hundred leet (fn. 151) by holding leet courts of their own. Hadley apparently had a court leet by 1667. (fn. 152) Some manors, however, were still being constrained to make suit to the hundred leet in the mid 18th century, (fn. 153), and c. 1840 an annual leet was still being held for the appointment of constables in those townships for which no manorial leet was held. (fn. 154)
About 1590 presentments to the hundred leet included the common round of petty offences: affrays (some involving bloodshed), theft, forestalling, pound breach and rescue of distraints, and infractions of the assize of bread and of ale. Nuisances obstructing roads and watercourses were presented, as were those arising from the neglect or breach of hedges and gates, the failure to ring swine, and the oppression of commons. The court laid pains against the non-provision of pounds and the statutory offences of failing to provide stocks and pillories; other statutory offences dealt with included the illegal use of guns, illegal games-playing (chiefly at cards and bowls), the failure to take oaths, and the neglect of statute labour on the roads. (fn. 155)
In 1592 William Greene despaired of realizing any profit from the leet and, surrendering his lease of the hundred, negotiated a new one of the stewardship, issues, and profits of the small courts only. (fn. 156) A court roll of 1359 records 52 cases before one session of the small court, mainly pleas of debt and trespass. (fn. 157) Such cases were evidently brought to the court from manors subject to the leet and from those that were exempt. (fn. 158) The civil jurisdiction of the hundred court was vigorously maintained until the 1840s. Confirmation of the hundred to Lord Newport in 1672 included the right to hold a court of record for the recovery of debts under £20; (fn. 159) it was referred to as the king's court of record and sometimes (from the 1680s) simply as 'Wellington court', for at some time between 1602 and 1682 the court had moved from Bradford bridge to Wellington, probably to the 'town hall'. (fn. 160) Court rules, probably dating from the 1680s, and a contemporary list of fees refer to a steward, his clerk (normally an attorney), a deputy steward, a sergeant or sergeants to execute process, and a gaoler. Attorneys' attendance on court days was to be in person 'or by their menial clerks and not by any solicitor or others'. Jury days were kept every quarter day following the county quarter sessions of the peace, and oftener if necessary. All 'practice and proceedings' were to accord as nearly as possible with the 'law and practice of other courts of law'. Officers in breach of court rules were to be suspended by the steward until Viscount Newport's pleasure was known. (fn. 161)
In the later 1830s, when its business was increasing, the court sat fortnightly for the preliminary stages of civil actions and twice a year for their trial; one of the two courts for trial was generally on the same day as the annual court leet. (fn. 162) Practice in the court probably declined after the introduction of new county courts in 1847 and its jurisdiction was in any case abolished (with all other such) in 1867. (fn. 163)
In 1806 the debtors' gaol in Wellington consisted of five filthy and unkempt rooms, three of them wholly dark, in the gaoler's house. A visit in November 1802 revealed no prisoners, (fn. 164) but a prisoner died in the gaol in 1829. (fn. 165) The previous year Robert Garbett had been appointed gaoler by the duke of Cleveland, and in the early 1830s between 6 and 19 debtors a year, averaging just over 11, were confined in Garbett's house in Walker Street. Garbett received fees on each prisoner's discharge, payable by the county quarter sessions since 1815; they averaged 6 guineas a year over the 1830s but about twice that in the late 1830s. Quarter sessions granted him a salary of £8 in 1840. (fn. 166) The gaol closed in 1844 soon after a final delivery by the steward, Uvedale Corbett, (fn. 167) under the Execution Act, 1844, which abolished imprisonment for debts under £20. (fn. 168)
A seal in use in 1732 was circular, 28 mm. in diameter; beneath a coronet it displayed the Newports' crest (a unicorn's head) with the legend, roman: HVNDRE[DVM] . DE . BRADFORD. (fn. 169)
The hundred stretched c. 40 km. north from Little Buildwas to Whitchurch and Woore and extended c. 20 km. west from the Staffordshire border to Shrewsbury, Wem, and the Welsh border, thus comprising the eastern part of the north Shropshire plain. Most of the area, apart from its south-eastern fringe, consists of Triassic formations: Bunter Pebble Beds and Red Sandstones and Keuper Marls. Around Prees, however, and stretching almost 13 km. north-east of the village, is an area of Jurassic rocks. Glacial drift, increasing in depth towards the west, covers virtually the whole area. At Hawkstone and Weston-under-Redcastle the Triassic sandstone is exposed in dramatic ridges (fn. 170) exploited at Bury Walls for defensive purposes in the Iron Age (fn. 171) and incorporated in a great 18th-century park whose cliffs thrilled Dr. Johnson by their suggestion of 'the sublime, the dreadful, and the vast'. (fn. 172)
The Hawkstone hills are uncharacteristic of the gently rolling country on which they intrude and which owes its form to the drift cover. Hamlets, villages, and small towns are generally sited little above their lowland surroundings; more rarely they are in valleys. Very few villages stand out prominently on high ground, (fn. 173) Prees and Wrockwardine, both on unusual geological formations, being notable exceptions. (fn. 174) The landscape generally resembles the undulating Cheshire plain into which it merges almost imperceptibly, even where the Ellesmere moraine forms a watershed between the two counties. (fn. 175) A small part of the northern area of the hundred drains northwards by the river Weaver through Cheshire to the Mersey, but the rest drains southwards by the Roden, the Tern, and their tributaries into the Severn at Atcham. In many places the drift cover, or perhaps the collapse of saliferous formations in the Keuper, has blocked natural drainage, sometimes over considerable areas like the Weald Moors north of Wellington and Whixall Moss on the Welsh border. (fn. 176) There is a great variety of soils (fn. 177) giving rise to grade 2 and grade 3 agricultural land, the former preponderant in the south, the latter in the north. (fn. 178)
By 1086 woodland was recorded in almost half of the estates in Hodnet hundred, but the heathlands that extended into Wrockwardine hundred were virtually woodless. In Wrockwardine hundred two thirds of the Domesday estates recorded no woodland. (fn. 179) Nevertheless a great tract of countryside in the south part of Wrockwardine hundred was included by the Norman kings in their forest of Mount Gilbert (or the Wrekin). (fn. 180) Outside the nucleated villages and hamlets settlement was widely dispersed, as in other areas with wood-pasture economies. (fn. 181) At the same time the ill-drained mosses, the extensive heathlands across the centre of Bradford hundred, and the surviving woods were all exploited as common pasture or meadow and for fuel. (fn. 182) Parishes containing several townships dependent on a central village or small market town are more typical of the area than single-township parishes. (fn. 183) Market Drayton, Newport, Wellington, Wem, and Whitchurch developed into market towns in the Middle Ages.
Increasingly from the 17th century the area shared the predominantly pastoral and dairy economy of Cheshire. (fn. 184) Between the 16th and the 19th centuries artificial drainage reclaimed the Weald Moors. (fn. 185) Around Whixall Moss and in many smaller such areas, however, despite reclamation over a long period, there remains abundant evidence of their peculiar economies and distinctive ecological characteristics. (fn. 186) Much of the former mosses and heaths has become grade 4 agricultural land. (fn. 187)
Along the south-east fringe of the hundred, where it bordered the borough of Wenlock and Brimstree hundred, an area of higher land coincides with the northern part of the east Shropshire coalfield. With two adjacent parishes formerly in Wenlock borough, that high land forms the southern half of the area treated in the present volume. To the south-west the productive Coal Measures run up against the hilly area around the Wrekin. Scenically that does not resemble north Shropshire, and its Pre-Cambrian, Cambrian, and Silurian rocks, with northern outliers in Wrockwardine and Lilleshall, link it to Shropshire south of the Severn. (fn. 188)