North West Shropshire

Little Ness is quieter, smaller and more rural than its neighbour Great Ness, but the 'little' does not refer to the comparison in acreage. In the Domesday book, Little Ness was mentioned as Nesse, the word referring to a promontory, and when viewed from the south, such as from the Wrekin, Nesscliffe and Hopton Hill appear as a large and small bump on the landscape. It is to these that the 'Great' and 'Little' refer.

The small village is as sleepy as any you will find in rural Shropshire, but it hasn't always been that way. The tiny church stands on what was once the bailey platform of a small motte and bailey castle. It is essentially a Norman church, but with some obvious renovations and alterations through the ages.

On February 14th 1947, the Reverend Parrott, Vicar of Little Ness, reported damage to a Tumulus near his church caused by Mr Davies, a local farmer, when he cut down a yew tree. The reason the Rev. Parrott was concerned about this minor mound is interesting, for he believed that it was not a motte but a burial mound and that it was here that Cynddylan was buried after a bloody battle against the Saxons at nearby Baschurch. This event is recorded in the writings of the British Poet, Llywarc Hen, who sought shelter in the court of Cynddyl;an, Prince of Powis, at Pengwern, whose site some believe to be at The Berth, near Baschurch.

Llanyblodwel is one of those bits of Shropshire mainly on the wrong side of Offa's Dyke, to the south west of Oswestry. The village itself is not much more than a handful of houses, an inn and a church, and is probably the smallest settlement in the parish, but it is also by far the most picturesque, and the bridge with the Horseshoes Inn is one of Shropshire's famous scenes. The inn is timber-framed and built in the 16th-century, as was the narrow, three-arched stone bridge which spans the River Tanat. Nearby stands one of Shropshire's most unusual churches which is dedicated to St. Michael. It was built in the mid-19th century to a design by the, then, vicar, John Parker. It has to be seen to be believed!

Llanymynech stands on the Oswestry to Welshpool road and the village is dominated by the cliffs of Llanymynech Hill. Such was the importance of the area that it may have been the site for the Roman township of Mediolanum. The hill is honeycombed with shafts and passages dug to extract lead, copper and zinc. One of these is Ogo's hole, probably just another mine shaft and no different from any other, but it is the one chosen to carry the legends. Was it the place where the Romans housed their British slaves? If so, then it is unlikely to be also the legendary entrance to fairyland that some claim. Then there is the story of the blind fiddler who once entered Ogo's hole and never returned, although his fiddling can sometimes still be heard. (See Shropshire's Secrets)

Loppington lies in the north of the parish a few miles west of Wem, and is a very pleasant spot, particularly around the church which is dedicated to St. Michael. Traces of a Norman building were found during the restoration of 1870.

The main body of the church is 14th century, with repairs of 1716, and the west tower and south aisle are 15th century. The south porch is dated 1658, and it replaced another burnt during the Civil War when the church was garrisoned by Parliamentary troops and stormed by the Royalists. The nave and aisle may also be replacements of that period. What apparently makes the encounter rare was that, for once, the Royalists were successful.

Interesting buildings in the village also include, The Nook, a pretty timber-framed house close to the church, Loppington Hall, a tall, rather bare, early 18th century brick house, and, at the southern end of the village is a cruck cottage. (Cruck construction is a method of timber framing by which the ridge beam is supported by pairs of curved timbers extending from floor to ridge,)

When it rains on the Welsh border the locals say, "God help Melverley" for they knew that it was here at the confluence of two rivers that it would flood. Perhaps it was the sight of high ground nearby that reassured the locals, for across the river to the south the views are of the Breiddens topped by Rodney's Pillar. This memorial to Admiral Rodney on the Shropshire/Welsh border is a reminder of the area's naval and seafaring past, as the river Severn was once a navigable route for boats up to thirty tons to trade as far upstream as Welshpool, and there was many a family of local gentry who created some of their family's wealth by supplying the Bristol shipyards with oak which was taken there down the river Severn.

Montford Prior to the opening of the new A5 bypass, most visitors to Shropshire knew where Montford Bridge was. To many it was that small village by the river just north of Shrewsbury, another place to speed through on their journey north or south. But by turning off, just north of the bridge, they would find a bit of countryside which shows what Shropshire is all about - peaceful villages and quiet country roads. Although not an overly hilly parish, there are sufficient vantage points to admire the majestic sweep of the river Severn with the equally impressive backcloth of the Welsh mountains.

The present bridge at Montford is mainly the work of the great bridge builder Thomas Telford, who received the princely sum of three guineas for its design while he held the part-time post of Surveyor of Bridges in Shropshire. Some time before Telford built his bridge there was a wooden structure spanning the Severn, which was once used as a means to attempting to capture the infamous Shropshire highwayman, Humphrey Kynaston. After leaving his home at Myddle he went to live in a cave on nearby Nesscliffe Hill. In an attempt to capture him, some planks were removed from the bridge at Montford but Kynaston's horse, known by the locals as Beelzebub, made a magnificent leap to carry his rider to safety.

To the west of Montford is Shrawardine, a larger, more picturesque village standing high on the banks of the river Severn. It was here that Henry I built a castle as a defence against the Welsh who managed to destroy it in one of their many forays against the English.

Myddle can be found to the north of Shrewsbury on the A528. The village probably owes its origins to being on a crossroads with the important Ellesmere-Shrewsbury road running roughly north-south, and the east-west road joining Wales to this part of Shropshire. A resident in the 18th century was Richard Gough who, wrote a "History of Myddle". In his book there are stories of conspiracies of unhappily married women of the village who poisoned their husbands, of men addicted to gambling or alcohol. The chapter headings alone show the content. - Chapter Five "He got a wench with child and fled away" -Chapter Seven "She went daily to the alehouse". - The last chapter is entitled "And there he and his loving wife spent their old age" which at least implies a happy-ever-after ending.