I have always enjoyed driving through the town of Cleobury Mortimer on what have been rather infrequent visits to that part of the county in the past. It is a pleasant town, set on the side of a hill close to the River Rea. On a recent visit, my reason was purely to walk its streets, and it says something for this south Shropshire town that, despite the persistent drizzle, I found the walk most rewarding.
Prior to walking through the town, however, I took a drive around the parish. To the east of Cleobury Mortimer, across the river and up Hungry Hill, towards the Shropshire/Worcestershire border, the land becomes wooded and is part of the Wyre forest. On the eastern bank of the river, and standing on the lower slopes of the hill is Mawley Hall, an 18th-century red-brick building with a splendid interior apparently designed with imagination and little regard for cost. Nearer to the town, close to where the A4117 and B4363 join, is Castle Toot, a place possessing, if nothing else a rather amusing name. It is, in fact, the site of an ancient earthwork which takes advantage of the steep hillside and river to help form its defences.
To the south of Cleobury Mortimer the land continues to drop away to Rowley Brook before climbing again towards the Herefordshire border. Further to the west are the farming hamlets of Upper and Lower Dudnil and Bransley, both rather pleasant places.
In reality, Cleobury Mortimer is barely a town, but I feel its history and, perhaps surprisingly, its industrial past, combined with a magnificent church, give it the right to be called a small town rather than being a large village. Today, in this quiet town, it is hard to believe that it has been the scene of savage strife and blood-shed.
of Cleobury Mortimer goes back a long time before the Norman Conquest,
as the Castle Toot shows. At the time of the Conquest, Cleobury
Mortimer was held by Queen Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor, and
after the Conquest it was held by Ralph de Mortimer.
Hugh Mortimer, son and heir of Ralph, refused to pay homage to Henry II on the death of Stephen, and fortified his three castles at Cleobury, Bridgnorth and Wigmore in defiance of the king. His defiance was short-lived, and his castle at Cleobury fell in 1154, and Bridgnorth the following year. He was also a man who did not get on well with his neighbours, namely, the Lord of Ludlow who, whenever he was abroad, was in fear of being taken by Mortimer's men, although it was eventually Hugh Mortimer himself who was captured and held to ransom in Ludlow.
Roger succeeded his father, and, like his father, was for ever at odds
with his neighbours, but this time choosing Hugh de Saye (of Stokesay).
followed some rather youthful lords of Cleobury Mortimer. Roger, who
was only three; and Edward, only seven, when their respective fathers
died. Edmund, when aged sixteen, married Phillippa Plantagenet (aged
thirteen) in 1136, creating another Royal link which was ultimately to
result in Richard, Duke of York's claim to the throne of England.
political (or military) significance of Cleobury Mortimer had waned,
the place, even by the 14th century, had some justifiable claims to
industrial importance. In particular, its fulling mills were of
importance, as was its wood industry, and Cleobury Mortimer became an
exporter of wooden bowls, dishes and cups in an age when other
materials were scarce. Records show that single orders for as many as
one-thousand dishes and bowls were fulfilled by the Cleobury craftsmen.
point in the town is the Church of the Virgin Mary. which stands on a
grassy plinth where the main road dips and turns around the churchyard
wall. It is possible that the founding of this church dates back to
Queen Edith in those pre-Norman times. The present church dates back to
the 12th-century, and its most striking feature is its crooked spire,
the result of its oak beams warped by wind, rain and time.
The main street has some interesting buildings although little of great architectural interest. But it is buildings like the Talbot Hotel and other Victorian structures, as well as red-brick shops like the general ironmongers whose windows and pavement are its showcases for all that is needed, from grow-bags to tap-washers, for the folk of Cleobury Mortimer.
The Shropshire Rambler