South East Shropshire


Church Preen is a tiny parish some 5 miles south-west of Much Wenlock. The village seems to have grown up around Preen Manor, which stands on the site of an ancient monastic establishment. There is little left of the monastery save the church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which is extraordinarily long and narrow. It has 13th century origins, although was much altered and rebuilt in the 18th century. It stands beside the present manor house which was built in the 19th century as an extension to an existing house, although since then it has undergone major structural alterations. Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful house, although almost impossible to see without infringing on others privacy. In the churchyard stands a fine old yew tree believed to be the oldest in Europe, and preceding the 700-year-old church by a staggering 800 years.



Claverley
is a delightful parish and village to the west of Bridgnorth on the Staffordshire border. At one time it was a large and important manor of around 23,000 acres belonging to the Saxon Earl Algar who died in 1059.
The village of Claverley is a delight to visit, especially for the first time when its main street, church and timber-framed vicarage come to the eyes of the traveller as a pleasant surprise. Each century seems to have added something to the splendour of this church, with perhaps the 12th century adding the most, with some magnificent wall paintings which were 'rediscovered' in 1902. These wall paintings have been compared with the Bayeux Tapestry, although their subject matter seems to be in doubt. Some say that the paintings illustrated a poem by the 4th-century Roman poet Prudentis, others that it is a scene from the Battle of Hastings in which Roger de Montgomery took part.





Ditton Priors
is a delightful parish and village lying to the east of Brown Clee Hill.
The church stands in the centre of the villager and is dedicated to St, John the Baptist. It is a mainly 13th-century structure with a rather impressive roof which, seen from the inside, has been compared with the Forth Bridge! The church stands as a centrepiece surrounded by a village which has seen much renovation in recent years, yet it seems to have retained all its character. Ditton Priors once had its own railway which was first opened in 1908 to support the dhu-stone quarries on nearby Clee Hill. The stone was brought down from the quarries in a rather hair-raising style on an incline where the loaded truck going down pulled up the empty ones. Such a primitive arrangement was not without incident! Later the railway was used to serve a Royal Navy Depot at Ditton Priors.


Easthope is a parish which straddles Wenlock Edge some 5 miles south-west of Much Wenlock. The village of Easthope is on the south-facing slopes of the Edge. The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, stands on the outskirts of the village surrounded by a sort of ha-ha. I found it to be a rather pretty, ivy-clad church, although others have not been so kind in their comments. The church has 12th-century origins, although it was mainly rebuilt after a fire. It is a peaceful spot, although ghosts are said to abound, for it has been the scene of violence in the past. In 1333, a previous incumbent, Will Germston, murdered John Easthope whose spirit is said to haunt the place. Also buried in the churchyard are two monks who killed each other in a drunken fight. - The presence of monks reminds us that Easthope was a cell for monks from Wenlock Priory.


Kinlet is a few miles out of Cleobury Mortimer on the B4363. Parish churches are traditionally a part of the village, and there are many villages in Shropshire where the village huddles around its church as if seeking spiritual security. But occasionally the lord of the manor has the village 'moved' so as to develop a park. Kinlet is such an example. The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and is a rather impressive structure with Norman origins, and unusual for its part-timber-framing.
The present Kinlet Hall was built in the 18th century, and there are some interesting stories about the families who were once lords of Kinlet. One is of Sir George Blount whose daughter fell in love with a page boy. On her father's death the two married, but were plagued by her father's irate spirit which came to haunt them. The story goes that they even pulled down the old hall and rebuilt it because the ghost was in the habit of driving his coach and horses across the dining-table!