In and around the three Strettons there are various signs of an older
age. Between Little and Church Stretton is the site of a castle, now
known as Brockhurst Castle, and it is believed by many that this is the
site of the original Royal Castle. The manor to which Church Stretton
belonged was given by Edward III to the Earl of Arundel in 1336, and in
whose family it remained until the reign of Elizabeth I.
As mentioned earlier, the A49 at this point traces the path of a Roman
road, but in the hills surrounding Church Stretton are signs of earlier
civilisations. On Caer Caradoc there is the site of an ancient fort,
believed by some to be the place on which Caractacus made his final
heroic stand against the might of Rome. And those who walk across the
Long Mynd will find the sites of tumuli, dykes and stone circles whose
history goes back into the mists of time.
Despite the obvious attractions that the Strettons display, my
favourite spot is the nearby hamlet of Minton, and perhaps this is
because at Minton there are no unimaginative rows of identical houses
or bungalows that the Strettons seem to have been blessed with in
At Minton, the hamlet is as it has probably been since Saxon times,
spread around a small overgrown green, its back to the hills and
overlooking the valley below. One of the houses is a good example of a
cruck construction, and nearby is a large Saxon mound and other signs
of The area's past.
The Domesday Survey
Although Church Stretton has a history stretching back before the
Norman Conquest, it is to that period we have to look to find any
The Domesday book states:
Stratun. Earl Edwin held
it, with 4 outliers, 8 hides. In lordship 3 ploughs; 6 male and 2
18 villagers and 8 smallholders with a priest who have 12 ploughs. A
mill; a church; in the woodland 5 hedged enclosures, a further 6
Value before 1066 £13; now 1OOs.
Today, such brief notes need an explanation. A hide was around 120
acres, although the measure did vary from place to place. When a
reference to ploughs is given it refers to the amount of arable land.
The reference to further ploughs possible means that more land could be
put to the plough.
oooo At the time
of the Domesday survey there was a definite social structure in the
country. At the bottom of the ladder came the slaves, who could be
bought or sold and had no rights other than to work for the lord of the
manor. Further up the scale were the smallholders who at least had
their own roofs over their heads, then came the villagers who would
most likely have land of their own.
reference to a priest and church shows that this was an established
community before the Norman Conquest. The reference to value is typical
of the Domesday survey in that it implies that less tax was being
collected than before the Conquest.
Before the Conquest, in Saxon times, Church Stretton belonged to the
Earls of Mercia. After the Conquest it passed into the hands of the
Norman earl, Roger de Montgomery. But after his death, and the
rebellion of Earl Robert de Belesme, it passed to the King. At the
beginning of the14th century Church Stretton was granted to the Earls
Church Stretton Castle
Better known as Brockhurst Castle, it was built by Henry II around 1154
to guard the north-south route through Shropshire which followed the
old Roman road (the present A49). When Stretton became a Royal manor.
i.e. belonging to the King, Stretton Castle was put in the care of
Engelard de Pitchford who received a salary of £4 per annum.
Then over the next few decades the castellan (care-taker) changed
frequently and even included, in 1197, Cadwallon who was the
illegitimate son of Owen Cyvelioc. a Prince of Powis.
In 1235 there is an account of oak trees being felled for repairs of
Stretton Castle, but twenty years later it is recorded that the castle
had been dismantled. It was probably a mainly wooden structure. What
little stone there was was most likely taken by the locals for building
oooo With no
castle there was no need for a castellan, and the responsibility for
the King's manor was in the hands of the local community. They seem to
have done a good job, as there are records of them reporting several
encroachments of the Royal Forest and of the King's fishponds being
drained and the fish being sold for 9 marks.
A good example of what the town was like at the turn of the century can
be obtained from the various directories of that period.
Cassey's Directory of 1871 had this to say:
"Church Stretton Is a market and union town - situated in a beautiful
and romantic vale. There is no doubt the place derived its name (Street
Town) from its proximity to the Roman road Watling Street, which leads
from Wroxeter, (Viriconium) a village 6 miles east from Shrewsbury, to
Kinchester in Herefordshire...."
oooo "There is a
clothing club for the benefit of poor families; and coals are given
away, by subscription, to the poor every winter.."
oooo "There is a
small manufactory for flannels, and there are several malt-houses in
the town. Here are two private lunatic asylums, one for ladies at All
Stretton, and one for gentlemen at Church Stretton.."
oooo "The market
is on Thursday. There are five fairs held annually, vlz., January,
March; May for hiring servants; July, for wool; September, for sheep,
colts and horses; and November. "
Walter White wrote
"We found the little town
in a state of excitement; groups of rustics in the street, waiting
apparently for some demonstration, creating an unwonted hum of voices,
and we were at a loss for an explanation until the waitress at 'The
Crown' told us that 'the gas was a-going to be lighted for the first
time. They had tried to light it the evening before, but it wouldn't
light.' It was something, we thought, to have arrived on so memorable
an occasion, and we watched for the illumination; but instead of
dazzling light there was disappointment: the gas still refused to
light, except at two of the lamps, in which it shone with the lustre of
a halfpenny candle. The gazers shook their heads doubtfully and went
home to bed. "
Church of St Lawrence
The church of St. Lawrence is of Saxon foundation as the Domesday Book
mentions that the manor had a Church and a Mill. The present building
dates from Norman times.
Considerable alterations took place at the end of the 12th century, or
very early in the 13th. A central tower and transepts were built, and
the chancel, which up to that time had doubtless been in the position
of the tower, placed further east. (see Legends
oooo In the 14th
century some windows may have been inserted and an addition was made to
oooo It is
recorded that in the churchyard there is a stone dedicated to the
memory of Ann Cook who died in 1814, aged 60, and inscribed with the
Thursday she was born;
On a Thursday made a bride;
On a Thursday her leg was broke;
And on a Thursday died. "
Did You Know?
At the turn of the century, the stations of London had posters
promoting Church Stretton as 'The Highlands of England'. The posters,
which might not pass the Trade Descriptions Act today, showed
snow-covered peaks above the pine-clad hillsides, perhaps implying that
Church Stretton was, indeed, some displaced part of Scotland or even
As a Proud Salopian once said "We don't have to compare Church Stretton
with anywhere else in the country or even the world. We are unique!"