Shropshire. History, heritage and tourism

North East Shropshire

Child's Ercall is a rural parish some three miles south of Market Drayton. and lies between the A41 and A442 . The village is a pleasant spot with a church dedicated to St. Michael and, at first glance, is no more than a rather fine l9-century structure. But this structure contains 13th-century arcades, and between the 13th century and the l9th century there seems to have been a continuous building programme. Most likely there was a church here well before the 13th century and even before the Norman Conquest, as the Domesday Book lists a priest which implies a church of Saxon foundation.

Records of the parish give details of a man who died and, instead of a will, gave instructions to his employer that
his modest wealth be divided amongst those of his relatives who came to his funeral. An arrangement which I find rather appealing.

Another interesting record is of the sighting of a mermaid by two locals on there way to work, near the Holy Well which stands near the banks of the river Meese in the extreme south of the parish.

"Her voice was so sweet and so pleasant, they fell ln love with her there and then, the both on 'em. Well, and her told 'em as how there was a treasure hid at the bottom of the pit. Lumps of gold, and dear knows what. And her 'ud give 'em all as ever they liked, if so be as they'd come to her in the water and take it out of her hands. So they
wenten in - nearly up to their chests it were - and her ducked down In the water and brought up a lump of gold. And the chaps were just a-going to take it off her, and the one on 'em says "Eh" says he, and he swore, you know, "If this inna a bit of luck!" And my word! If the mermaid didna take it off 'em again and give a kind of shriek and ducked down again into the pit; and they never seed no more on her, not after, nor got none of her gold; nor nobody's never seed nothing on her, not since!"

It seems that the well got its name, not from a miraculous cure, but from the unnecessary use of blasphemy. But what I find interesting is that a mermaid was seen so far from the sea. And what is even more interesting is that a mermaid is also said to have been seen at Aqualate Mere near Newport, and that the river Meese flows into that Mere.

The village of Edgmond is a very pleasant place and mainly stands in peace, away from the B5062, to the west of Newport. The houses in the village are a delightful mixture of styles and ages, giving a character to the place that has obviously taken centuries to create. The church is dedicated to St. Peter, and was founded by Earl Roger around 1086 and later given to Shrewsbury Abbey. It is a rather fine church as befits a village such as Edgmond. The structure has definite 13th-century origins and, although no proof exists, there was most probably a church here long before the Normans arrived. Immediately to the west of the church stands the Old Rectory which was renamed the Provost's House when a former occupant, Prebendary Arthur Talbot, was appointed Provost of Denstone School. The house has origins almost as old as the church, although much of what is visible dates from the 18th century. It can be seen from the churchyard without cause to trespass, and makes a fine sight with its entrance and large private chapel.

Ercall Magna is better known as High Ercall and is a large parish lying between Newport and Shrewsbury. The village of High Ercall stands at a road junction between the B5062 and the B5063, and it is a pleasant village with a number of older houses and buildings congregated beside the church. In the 13th century High Ercall was one of the eighty-two manors owned by Bishop Burnell, of Acton Burnell. As well as being Bishop of Bath and Wells, he was also Chancellor to Edward I, and there is probably no other Shropshire man who amassed such wealth and lands within a singe lifetime. A later family with even greater connections with High Ercall was the Newport family who lived at High Ercall Hall adjacent to the church. As befitted such an important Shropshire family, the Newports were ardent Royalists although it is said that they held out for a title before giving vast sums to the King's cause. When the fighting came to Shropshire, High Ercall Hall withstood a one-year siege and, apart from Ludlow, was the last Royalist stronghold to fall to the Commonwealth.

The parish of Eyton on the Weald Moors lies immediately to the north of Wellington, and the the east of the A442 Wellington toWhitchurch road. This area has been touched by recent developments in Telford. Shawbirch was once no more than a crossroads in the parish of Eyton, but is now a modern village typical of Telford.

To find the true village of the parish it is necessary to turn off the A442 and travel along a road lined with willows, to a cluster of buildings which have had the benefit of centuries to create the atmosphere and character that
much of Telford lacks.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Catherine, stands almost in a farmyard. and is a mid- 18th-century red brick structure which most probably replaced an earlier structure.

A little way up the road is the former school and Eyton Hall, the latter standing back from the road in its own park. Edward Herbert was born in Eyton. and he later became Lord Chirbury as well as a rather famous historian and philosopher. He was once described as "the first and most candid of our English infidels" a rather unusual character reference. Presumably the word infidel referred to his lack of belief in the prevailing religious teachings of his day. It is from him that the noble family of Powis are descended.

The Eyton family, who presumably took their name from their parish, is one of Shropshire's oldest families. For
centuries they have been an important force in the county's politics and agriculture. As an ardent Royalist, Robert Eyton accompanied Richard I on his crusades to the Holy Land, and the family actively supported Charles in hls struggle agalnst the Commonwealth.

In more recent times another Robert, Robert William Eyton, was an historian of some note and is remembered for his magnificent "Antiquities of Shropshire" without which most researchers on Shropshire, me
included, would find themselves in difficulty.

The parish of Hinstock lies between Newport and Market Drayton on the A41 and A529 roads. It was mentloned as Stoche in the Domesday Book. The origin is most likely from the Old English "hina" - domestic, or the Middle English "hine" and "stoc" - a fenced place. This makes the complete meaning the place of the domestics.

Hinstock has been described, perhaps unfairly, as "not a pretty or interesting vlllage." I would not dare agree with that description in case I upset the residents of Hinstock, but even they would probably agree that Hinstock possibly lacks the visual delights of some of Shropshire's more photogenic villages, Before its bypass was built I should imagine that the residents of Hinstock village suffered from the sometimes heavy traffic on the A41 and A529. but now most of the village is left in peace and thus, particularly around the church it is a very quiet spot.

Hodnet is a small village and a large parish lying some six miles south-west of Market Drayton. Being in the north-east of the county the terrain is mainly flat, but visitors to the parish of Hodnet are often pleasantly surprised by the dramatic changes in scenery in the west of the parish where an impressive sandstone hill forms the backbone of Hawkstone Park. (Both Hodnet and Hawkstone have recently been linked with both the legends of Robin Hood and King Arthur. )

Hodnet Hall dates from the 19th century and replaces an earlier structure. Its gardens are a popular attraction in the summer. Hawkstone Hall is an 18th-century house built for Sir Richard Hill and added to by his nephew Sir Rowland Hill. What is of interest is Hawkstone Park, which spills over into the neighbouring parish of Weston-under-Redcastle.

The parish of Ightfield, lying to the east of Whitchurch, boasts two villages, Calverhall and Ightfield, and though quite close to each other they differ extensively in architectural style and layout. Calverhall lies in the east of the parish near the boundary with neighbouring Moreton Say. It seems to be very much a 'planned' village, and I got the impression that it was all built at around the same time, as if part of a master plan by the local landowner, intent on creating a model village for his model(?) tenants and workers. But neighbouring Ightfield tends to sprawl and has a church of 15th-century origins. It stands on the northern edge of the village on a small rise, as if overlooking the village in a spiritual way. It is worthy of a visit not least for its early monuments and magnificent gargoyles that seem to hang out from the tower as if determined to get a closer look at those who come to admire or worship.