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
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!