Church Stretton is a rather special place in Shropshire and has been a
destination for visitors for many years. Although an attractive town,
it is the setting that most people come to see, with the surrounding
hills providing the main attraction. For many years it was a spa town,
with people coming to take the air and water, but today's visitors are
usually more energetic, coming for the fine walks available in the area.
The Long Mynd is the main attraction, and the name simply means the
Long Mountain. Thankfully, someone decided to use the word Mynd, rather
than mountain, otherwise it would get confused with the next range of
hills to the west which is also called the Long Mountain.
(Written in the mid 1980's by 'The Shropshire Rambler'
The Church Stretton area is considered Shropshire's gateway to the
hills and, whether coming from the north, south or east, the fine views
of Ragleth, Hazler, Hope Bowdler and Caer Caradoc Hills, as well as the
Long Mynd, do make one's arrival in this area very exciting. It is the
combination of these hills, together with fine views, fresh air and
good water that make Church Stretton Shropshire's own spa town. And
certainly during Victorian days it was a popular resort.In 1912 the
official handbook of the Church Stretton Advancement Association
described it thus:
"Not only has the climate
a generally tonic and invigorating effect, but it also has the valuable
quality of exercising a somewhat tranquillising influence on the
nervous system and circulation.'
Nowadays, as property prices attest, it has become a favourite place to
retire to and, as summer crowds prove, it is also a favourite place for
There are, in fact, three Strettons, and a favourite tale is of one of
our monarchs, I forget which, who was travelling from Ludlow to
Shrewsbury. The train was late, and at one point was held up for line
repairs in a small hamlet. The King asked a guard what the name of the
hamlet was and received the answer, "Stretton".
oooo "It's a very
little Stretton," remarked the King as the train started again, soon to
be held up again a short time later.
oooo "And this
place?" he asked the still attendant guard.
was the reply again.
oooo "I suppose
this must be Church Stretton," he observed to an aide, nodding towards
the church tower that showed above the houses.
oooo A little
further on they were, once again, delayed.
the guard said, anticipating the King's question.
oooo "It seems to
be all Stretton around here," remarked the King, by this time wishing
he had taken a coach.
oooo So that is
why there is a Little, a Church and an All Stretton and, I suppose, why
traditionally the answers given by guards to passengers' questions are
short and never very informative.
So as not to show any favouritism, I will deal with them in
All Stretton is one of those parishes where often the roadside grass
gives way to fern or bracken, and the hedge banks are that little bit
closer and higher. Occasionally there is the rattle of a cattle grid
under car wheels, and the surroundings change to closely-cropped grass,
heather, fern and the smell of sheep. Even place names like Gogbatch,
Hodghurst and Duckley Nap seem a little different than in the rest of
the county, as if they are from an ancient or foreign tongue. It is a
parish of sheep that pause and gaze at traffic on weekdays, and on
weekends allow themselves to be photographed, fed and even petted by
The 'All' in All Stretton is a shortened version of the name Alured.
This particular Alured is believed to have been a ranger in the forest
of the Long Mynd in the 7th century. 'Stretton' is made up from Straet,
a street or way, and 'ton', a farm or enclosure, thus making up
Alured's farm or enclosure. The 'street' in question was the Roman road
which ran from Viriconium, on the banks of the Severn, to Kinchester in
Herefordshire. Many guide books compare All Stretton with Church
Stretton, but this, I feel, is unfair and All Stretton should be judged
on its own merits. Quite simply, it is a delightful, sleepy village
which, tucked against the hills as it is, is conveniently by-passed by
the A49(T). There are sufficient old houses to give it character, and
the views from behind the village on Castle Hill will take your breath
The Church of St, Michael and All Saints, at the northern end of the
village, is a fascinating church. Not so much for its architectural
qualities, although it is a pleasing building to visit, but because in
the building of the church one can see how churches have often been
built in this country since time began, through a desire for a place of
worship, and community effort. The church was completed in 1902, built
largely of Long Mynd stone from a small quarry in the village, and has
an unusual north-north-east orientation because of the limited space
available on the side of the hill. Many of the fittings and furniture
were not only donated by local individuals, but also made by them. The
oak panelling in the sanctuary,
together with the woodwork round the baptistery and partition for the
vestry, was made by local craftsmen, as were the font, hymn boards,
altar linen and frontals - the list is seemingly endless. More
recently, the work of forty embroiderers adorn the kneelers, the choir
stalls and altar steps. It is a living church inasmuch as the monuments
are to people still remembered in the parish. Outside, despite lack of
space, much time and effort has gone into the gardens to create a tidy
order to a piece of hillside.
Behind the church the hillside rises steeply, and looking over the roof
of the church towards Caer Caradoc it is hard to believe the church has
not been there for much longer, so well does it fit into its
Church Stretton takes its name from its church, which was mentioned in
the Domesday Book as 'Stratun'. The present church is dedicated to St.
Lawrence who was burned to death in Rome in the 3rd century. It is a
dignified, cruciform church with a central tower and has Norman
origins. It stands on the site of an earlier church dating back to
The centre of Church Stretton is little more than a high street, a
minute square and a crossroads. But it is a pleasant town to visit,
especially on a summer morning before visitors to the town start to
crowd the pavements. Even in winter it is surprising how busy the
little town can become with visitors who break their journey along the
nearby A49 to stretch their legs. Away from the town centre the great
number of new houses signifies the popularity of the area as a place to
retire to, as there is little industry for those seeking work. There
is, however, sufficient of the Victorian Stretton still to be seen in
some of the finer stone buildings and neo-half-timbered buildings.
Little Stretton lies to the south of Church Stretton. and it is a
delightful place to walk around. The church is a timber-framed building
with a thatched roof, but the symmetry of the timbers and the pine
interior give its age away, and it is no older than the church at All
Stretton. The surrounding houses, however, lend something to it and it
blends well into its surroundings. (continued on next page)