Church Stretton

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

STRETTON (CHURCH), a market-town and parish in the hundred of MUNSLOW, county of SALOP, 13 miles (S. by W.) from Shrewsbury, and 153 (N.W.) from London, containing, with the townships of All Stretton, Little Stretton, and Minton, 1226 inhabitants. This place, which, by its adjunct, is distinguished from its townships as the seat of the parish church, derived its name Stretton, or Street-town, from its situation within a quarter of a mile of the ancient Watling-street, which passes in a direction parallel with the road from Shrewsbury to Ludlow. The town is romantically situated in a rich and fertile vale, enclosed on one side by a bold range of mountains, among which are the Caer Caradoc, the lofty and precipitous retreat of Caractacus; the Lawley; and the Raglish; and on the other by the extensive chain of hills called the Longmynd, flat on the summit, but deeply indented, on the south-eastern acclivity, with numerous vallies, from which many mountain streams descend with impetuosity.

It consists of one street only, in the wider part of which is the market-house, erected in 1617, an antique building of timber and plaster, consisting of two upper rooms now used for storing wool, and supported on pillars of wood, resting on stone plinths, affording a sheltered area for the use of the market. The houses are in general built of brick, and of neat and modern appearance, occasionally interspersed with handsome dwellings, and many small cottages; the inhabitants are amply supplied with water by pumps attached to the more respectable houses, and from a stream which, descending from the Longmynd, flows at one extremity of the town. The secluded and romantic situation of the place, its proximity to scenes of deep interest, the mildness and salubrity of the air, and various other attractions, render it a place of resort for parties from the neighbouring towns. But little trade is carried on: a manufactory for flannel was established in 1816, which is now flourishing; but the principal part of the inhabitants are employed in agriculture: large flocks of sheep are depastured on the neighbouring hills, and a fair for wool was established in 1819.

The market is on Thursday, chiefly for provisions: the fairs are March 10th, for cattle, horses, and sheep; May 14th, a statute fair; July 3rd, a great wool fair; September 25th, a very large sheep fair; and the last Thursday in November, for cattle, sheep, and horses. The county magistrates hold a court of petty sessions at the Talbot hotel, on the third Thursday in every month; and two constables for each township are annually appointed at the court leet held in the old manor-house, now an inn, at which also, under the steward, who must be a lawyer, a court of requests for the recovery of debts under 40s. was formerly held by letters patent of Charles II., granted to the Marquis of Bath, then lord of the manor.

The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Salop, and diocese of Hereford, rated in the king's books at £15. 10., and in the patronage of the Rev. Robert Norgrave Pemberton. The church, dedicated to St.Lawrence, is an ancient and venerable cruciform structure, principally in the early style of English architecture, with a square embattled tower rising from the centre, strengthened by buttresses, and crowned with pinnacles: in the buttress at the south angle is a figure of St. Lawrence, and in other parts of the tower are groups of figures, well sculptured. The south porch and the entrance on the north are of Norman character, and the interior contains several portions in the Norman style, with insertions in the decorated style of English architecture.

The nave, chancel, and transepts, are separated by four lofty clustered columns and pointed arches, which support the tower; the chancel is beautifully ornamented with richly carved oak in antique devices, collected from ancient manorial and ecclesiastical edifices, and put up by the present rector, who has bestowed much care and expense on the embellishment of the church; and in the central compartment of the altar is an elegant and well-carved representation of a dead Christ in the lap of the Virgin. The windows, principally hi the decorated style, with rich and flowing tracery, are embellished with stained glass; and in the south transept, the ancient oak roof, finely carved, is carefully preserved. A large stone coffin with a lid, now broken, and an alabaster slab, with an illegible inscription, were taken from under a low arch in the south transept. The triennial visitation is held in this church by the bishop of the diocese, in August, and in the intermediate years by the archdeacon, in May.

The free school was endowed by successive benefactors, of whom the principal were, Edward Lloyd, Esq., who in 1700 bequeathed £100; John Bridgman, Esq., who in 1803 gave £100; and the Rev. John Mainwaring, who in 1807 left £200 for the same purpose. In addition to these legacies, of which a portion is appropriated to apprenticing the children, it has an endowment of forty acres of land, under the late enclosure act. The building, which is neat and well adapted to its use, comprises two school-rooms, with apartments for the master and the mistress; the school is free for all children of the parish, and combines the objects of a National school, (in which one hundred children, of whom the more respectable pay a quarterage to the trustees, are instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic), with the advantages of a Sunday school: the income is about £70, out of which the master is allowed £40, per annum. The almshouses, which have been recently erected, are appropriated as residences for four poor people, who pay a rent of one shilling per quarter; the rental of four acres of land in the parish, and several charitable bequests, are distributed among the poor, on Easter-day, by the rector and churchwardens.

On Caer Caradoc are the remains of a large encampment, defended on the steepest acclivities with one, and on the more accessible ascents with two, and in some places with three, intrenchments hewn out of the solid rock; this was probably an exploratory station of Caractacus, from whom the hill received its name. In the neighbourhood of Clun is another, in which the British hero, after his escape from the Roman conquerors, took refuge, and from which he was betrayed into their power, and led captive to Rome. On the summit of Longmynd a pole has been erected, denoting the highest point in that extensive range of hills, commanding a panoramic view of a wide extent of country in every direction; the prospect includes, on the west, the Stiperstones, the Welch mountains, the Sugar loaf in Abergavenny, the Table mountain, the Cader Idris, and the intervening range from that mountain to Snowdon; on the south-east, the Edgewood, between Wenlock and Ludlow, the Wrekin, and the Glee and Malvern hills; and the Radnorshire hills on the south-west.

On the Longmynd are many low tumuli and cairns of stones; and on one of the eminences, called Bodbury, is a large intrenchment of earth: this mountain was the scene of many battles between the Romans and the Britons, and afterwards between the Welch and the English. In 1825, one of the tumuli was opened, under the superintendence of the Rev. Mr. Pemberton, rector of the parish; on the level of the base was found a circular enclosure of loose stones, appearing to have endured the action of fire, and several pieces of bone were discovered in a calcined state, supposed to have been parts of the bodies burnt there according to the rites of Roman sepulture; this tumulus was surrounded by the trench, from the excavation of which it had been raised.

On an eminence at Minton is a very lofty tumulus, supposed to be one of those mounts upon which, in the earlier times of the Britons, justice was administered to the people. One mile to the south-west of Church-Stretton was Brockard's Castle, of which the site, the intrenchments, the moat, and foundations, with the approaches from the Watling-street, may be traced. Among the eminent natives of this town were William Thynne, Receiver of the Marches, in 1546; Sir John Thynne, Knt., who founded Longleat House, in the county of Wilts; and Dr. Roger Mainwaring, vicar of St. Giles' in the Fields, London, and chaplain to Charles I., who, for preaching two sermons, called "Religion" and "Allegiance", was censured by parliament, and imprisoned and suspended for three years; being afterwards by the king made Bishop of St. David's, he retained that dignity till the abolition of episcopacy, when he again underwent various persecutions till his death, in 1653.

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