North West Shropshire

Great Ness is something of a rambling parish straddling the A5 about eight miles north of Shrewsbury. On the A5 is the village of Nesscliffe which tends to sprawl along the main road. On the east side of the village is Nesscliffe Hill. To quote from a Shropshire Leisure Services Brochure;
Nesscliffe Hill Country Park offers great views over Shropshire and beyond from the slopes of its hills. There are large areas of woodland and the oak woods are especially rich in birds, mammals and insects. The ramparts of an ancient hill fort stand at the top of Nesscliffe Hill, and at the southern end of the hill is Kynaston' Cave. This was once a home for Humphrey Kynaston, the highwayman and now for three species of bats.

Grinshill stands just off the A49 north of Shrewsbury, and for centuries sandstone has been quarried here. It is not known who first realised the value of Grinshill stone, but it is known that the Romans quarried here for stone to use in the building of Viriconium which lies some ten miles due south. (See Shropshire's Secrets) Grinshill stone was later used to build Aberystwyth University and even the Prime Minister's residence at Chequers. Sandstone was even exported to America and used in the construction of churches there, and that was in the days of sailing ships! Today some of the original quarries are overgrown and unworked, but the hill is a very popular spot for those looking for a gentle uphill walk on a sunny afternoon with rewarding views if you make it to the top.


Hadnall is a small parish just north of Shrewsbury on the A49 . It is here that General Rowland Hill, Shropshire's greatest soldier, lies. His monument depicts a mourning soldier and a mourning tenant, the latter as a reminder of his former estate nearby. He was born a little way to the north near Hawkstone and was one of sixteen children, of whom five were to see service with the Army. As a young man he distinguished himself at Toulon and later in Egypt. The battles in which he took part read like a catalogue of British Army encounters with the enemy, - Corunna, Almarez, Vittoria, Orthez, Toulouse and, of course, Waterloo. It seems he was one of those rare British soldiers who led his men from the front rather than from the rear, and I can imagine that he was respected and honoured by his men, many of whom he had recruited and trained personally.

Hordley parish really stands in the middle of nowhere between Oswestry, Ellesmere and Wem. It has no 'A' or 'B' class roads, and not even a disused railway to mark the countryside with at least a sign of the past. There was once a canal, however, which branched off the Llangollen part of the Shropshire Union, to wend its way south to Weston Wharf in the parish of Baschurch. But even this seems to have mainly skirted the parish boundary, and most of its length is now lost to all but the vigilant eye.

In the north of the parish, the tiny church, dedicated to St Mary, at Hordley, has Norman origins with a 12th-century nave, but most of the other features are from the 19th century restorations. Nevertheless, it is a pleasant sight and is very much the centrepiece of the tiny hamlet.

Kinnerley is a rural parish, NW of Shrewsbury and west of the A5. A church was founded here possibly as early as the 6th century. The present parish church is dedicated to St. Mary and was built in the 18th century of red sandstone. It is a rather solid structure, with the village street curving around the churchyard wall as if in deference. There is a story which tells of a farmer returning home from a fair where he had sold two cows, Dobbin and Golden. When he passed the furnace where the bells were being re-cast, he was asked what he would donate towards the cost and he replied "Dobbin and Golden", and he tipped a quantity of silver coins into the furnace. Since then the bells have been known as Dobbin and Golden and have, presumably because of their silver content, a tone unequalled in the area.

A little to the north of the village is the site of Lady Ida's well. Lady Ida was the wife of the 4th earl of Bradford whose estates included land in this area. In 1895 she discovered a spring which was found to be most efficacious in curing her of whatever ailed her. It soon became a popular spot among those who needed to take the waters, and some even had it delivered weekly by carrier's cart to Shrewsbury.

In the west of the parish the names tend to change, as if in deference to Welsh, and here are such names as Dyffryd and Pentreheylin as well as Gwen-y-Daubwll which I am sure is pronounced differently in Welsh than it is in a Shropshire dialect.

Knockin lies to the NW of Shrewsbury and west of the A5. The village has a thriving village shop which is something of a rarity nowadays. It was once featured on television because of its sign 'The Knockin Shop', but in reality, the 'o' in Knockin is pronounced the same as the 'o' in London making it more Knuckin than Knockin..

Knockin Castle was a moated site between two knolls and may have been built by Henry II in the 12th century. A little while after his death it passed into the hands of John le Strange, whose family were also responsible for building the church which stands close to the castle site. Like most Shropshire castles which are now only marked by grassy sites, its stones live on in a number of buildings in the area.

Out in the east of the parish is Knockin Heath which is, because of the parish boundaries, now more in Kinnerley than in Knockin. In the past, this spot was used for executions, and one of the most memorable is one recorded by Cathrall in his history of Oswestry. He states that, in 1590, two uncles were executed at the Bridgnorth Assizes, and a third was "pressed to death", after being found guilty of plotting the murder of their nephew for his inheritance of £5 a year which, in those days, must have been a considerable sum. During the trial, the defendent, Geoffrey Elkes said he had left the body of the child on Knockin Heath, and because of this, Knockin Heath was chosen as the place for their execution.