1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shropshire
SHROPSHIRE (Salop), a western county of England on the Welsh border, bounded N. by Cheshire and a detached portion of Flint, E. by Staffordshire, S.E. by Worcestershire, S. by Herefordshire, S.W. by Radnorshire, W. by Montgomeryshire and N.W. by Denbighshire. The area is 1343 sq. m. The name of Salop, in common use, comes from an early name of the county town of Shrewsbury. Towards the west Shropshire partakes of the hilly scenery of Wales, from which several ranges are continued into it. South of the river Severn and partly in Montgomeryshire, the Breidden Hills rise abruptly in three peaks; and in the south-west there is a broad range of rough rounded hills known as Clun Forest, extending from Radnorshire. South and west of the Severn there are four other principal chains of hills extending from S.W. to N.E.—the Long Mynd (1674 ft.), west of Church Stretton; the Carodoc Hills, a little to the north, which are continued across the Severn and terminate in the isolated sugar loaf hill of the Wrekin (1335 ft.); Wenlock Edge, east of Church Stretton, a sharp ridge extending for 20 m., and at some points rising above 1000 ft.; and the Clee Hills near the south-eastern border (Brown Clee, 1805 ft.; Titterstone Clee, 1749 ft.). The remainder of the county is for the most part pleasantly undulating and well cultivated. It lies almost entirely in the basin of the Severn, which enters from Montgomeryshire and flows eastward to Shrewsbury, after which it turns south-eastward to Ironbridge, and then continues in a more southerly direction past Bridgnorth, entering Worcester near Bewdley. The scenery on its banks is striking at some places, as near the finely situated town of Bridgnorth, but it is spoilt in one of the most beautiful stretches, that near Coalbrookdale, by the great factories in the neighbourhood. Its principal tributaries within Shropshire are: from the right the Rea, the Cound and the Borle; from the left the Vyrnwy, a well-known trout-stream forming part of the boundary with Montgomeryshire, the Perry, the Tern, which receives the Roden, and the Worf. The Dee and its tributary the Ceiriog touch the north-western boundary of the county with Denbighshire. In the south the Teme, which receives the Clun, the Onny and the Corve, flows near the borders of Herefordshire, which it occasionally touches and intersects. Salmon are taken in the Severn, and the Teme with its tributaries are frequented for trout and grayling fishing. There is a cluster of picturesque meres or small lakes in the north-west near the borders of Denbighshire, of which the largest is Ellesmere, and there are a number of others in various parts of the county.
Geology.—The Pre-Cambrian rocks of Shropshire include the granitoid and gneissic rocks of the Ercall and Primrose Hill (Wrekin), the schists of Rushton, the lavas and ashes of the Wrekin, Caer Caradoc and Pontesford, and the purple slates, grits and conglomerates of the Longmynd. The Wrekin Quartzite, Comley Sandstone and Shineton Shales are the local representatives of the Cambrian system. These are followed by the Ordovician formations which occupy three areas: the Breidden Hills, the Shelve district and the Caer Caradoc district, and include strata referable to the Arenig, Llandeilo and Bala series; the rocks are fossiliferous shales, grits and volcanic ashes, with dolerite intrusions. The Silurian rocks which follow unconformable are represented in the Long Mountain and Clun Forest regions by sandstones and shales, and along Wenlock Edge by highly fossiliferous mud stones and limestones; they include the Llandovery, Wenlock and Ludlow series, and the limestones are famed for their rich marine fauna. The Old Red Sandstone, a great series of red marls, sandstones and thin impure limestones (cornstones), conformably succeeds the Silurian rocks, and occupies the south-eastern area (whence it extends into Herefordshire); it also makes extensive out-liers at Clun and Bettws-y-Crwyn; the rocks have yielded fish and crustacea. The highest beds are conglomeratic and are seen only round the Titterstone Clee Hill. The Carboniferous Limestone and Millstone Grit of the Denbighshire coalfield enter the county near Oswestry; they appear also at Lilleshall and Coalbrookdale on the western border of the Coalbrookdale coalfield, and underlie the little coalfield of the Titterstone Clee Hill. The Coal Measures with their coal-seams and bands of ironstone are present at Oswestry (extending south from Denbighshire) and form also the coalfields of Shrewsbury, Leebotwood, Coalbrookdale, Wyre Forest and the Clee Hills. In the last two districts basalt (dhustone) has been intruded into the Measures, and at Clee Hill is extensively quarried for road stone and paving cubes. The so-called Permian rocks (red sandstones and marls) are now grouped with the Coal Measures. The succeeding Triassic rocks—red sandstones, marls and conglomerates (Bunter and Keuper)—occupy the north-eastern part of the county, and are capped near Market Drayton by Rhaetic and Lias. Glacial deposits—boulder-clay, gravel and sand, often shell-bearing—overspread much of the Triassic plain in the north and east of the county; they were laid down by ice-sheets which moved in from the Irish Sea and from the Aran and Arenig mountains in Merioneth. Some peat-bogs in the drift-covered regions appear to occupy the sites of lakes. Coal and ironstone, silver-lead and zinc from the Ordovician rocks of Shelve, with limestone, building-stone and roadstone, are the chief mineral products.
Industries.—More than four-fifths of the total area is under cultivation. The principal grain crops are barley and oats, the acreage under each of which is nearly double that under wheat. Some five-eighths of the total acreage cultivated is in permanent pasture, and there are besides considerable tracts of hill pasture. Turnips and swedes form the bulk of the green crops, as cattle are largely kept for the dairy. The cattle are chiefly Herefords and the sheep Shropshires. Cheshire cheese is made in the northern districts. A small acreage is under hops.
Apart from agriculture there are several important branches of industry. Coalbrookdale and the neighbourhood is the principal coal-mining centre, and was an early home of the iron founding trade, under the famous family of Darby, and this industry is prosecuted here and at Ironbridge, Shifnal and elsewhere. There are also considerable manufactures of machinery, tools and agricultural implements, as at Ludlow, Oswestry, Shrewsbury and Wellington. There are great encaustic tile and brick works in the Broseley district, where also is an old-established manufacture of tobacco pipes; while at Coalport there are china works. Some woollen goods are made. In the Minsterley and Stiperstones district in the west, lead and barytes are obtained.
Communications.—The railways, for which Shrewsbury is the most important centre, belong mainly to the Great Western and London & North-Western companies. Of the first the main route to the north-west runs from Wolverhampton by Wellington, Shrewsbury and Gobowen to Chester, with a branch from Wellington to Crewe. Another line comes from Worcester and Bewdley, following the Severn valley by Bridgnorth and Ironbridge to Shrewsbury, with several branches through the Coalbrookdale and Wenlock districts. The two companies jointly work the line from Stafford by Newport, Wellington and Shrewsbury to Welshpool, and the Crewe-Hereford line by Whitchurch, Shrewsbury and Craven Arms. From Craven Arms a branch of the North-Western system runs into South Wales and the short Bishops Castle railway serves that town. The Cambrian line starts from Whitchurch and runs by Oswestry into Wales. The chief canals are the Shropshire Union, Shrewsbury and Ellesmere in the northern part of the county. The Severn is to some extent used for navigation up to Shrewsbury.
Population and Administration.—The area of the ancient county is 859,516 acres, with a population in 1891 of 236,339, and in 1901 of 239,324. The area of the administrative county is 861,802 acres. The county contains 14 hundreds. The municipal boroughs are—Bishops Castle (pop. 1378), Bridgnorth (6052), Ludlow (4552), Oswestry (9579), Shrewsbury (28,395), Wenlock (15,866). The urban districts are Church Stretton (816), Dawley (7522), Ellesmere (1954), Newport (3241), Oakengates (10,906), a mining town, Wellington (6283), Wem (2149), Whitchurch (5221). The more important towns not mentioned above are Broseley, Coalbrookdale, Madeley (this parish including Ironbridge and Coalport) and Much Wenlock, which are embraced wholly or in part by the borough of Wenlock; Market Drayton (5167) and Shifnal (3321). Lesser towns are Clun (1915) which gives name to Clun Forest, and Cleobury Mortimer (1810) in the south. The county is in the Oxford circuit, and assizes are held at Shrewsbury. It has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into 18 petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Oswestry, Shrewsbury and Wenlock have separate commissions of the peace and courts of quarter sessions. There are 267 civil parishes. Shrewsbury is divided between the dioceses of Lichfield and Hereford, with a small part in the diocese of St Asaph, and contains 284 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part. There are four parliamentary divisions—Mid or Wellington, North or Newport, South or Ludlow, and West or Oswestry, each returning one member, while Shrewsbury returns one member.
History.—The district which is now Shropshire was annexed to the kingdom of Mercia by Offa, who in 765 constructed Watt's Dike to defend his territory against the Welsh, and in 779, having pushed across the Severn, drove the king of Powys from Shrewsbury, then known as Pengwerne, and secured his conquests by a second defensive earthwork known as Offa's Dike, which, entering Shropshire at Knighton, traverses moor and mountain by Llanymynech and Oswestry, in many places forming the boundary line of the county, and finally leaves it at Bron y Garth and enters Denbighshire. In the 9th and 10th centuries the district was frequently overrun by the Danes, who in 874 destroyed the famous priory of Wenlock, said to have been founded by St Milburg, granddaughter of Penda of Mercia, and in 896 wintered at Quatford. In 912 Æthelflead, the lady of Mercia, erected a fortress at Bridgnorth against the Danish invaders, and in the next year at Chirbury. Mercia was mapped out into shires in the 10th century after its recovery from the Danes by Edward the Elder, and Shropshire stands out as the sole Mercian shire which did not derive its name from its chief town. The first mention of it in the Saxon Chronicle occurs under 1006, when the king crossed the Thames and wintered there. In 1016 Edmund Ætheling plundered Shrewsbury and the neighbourhood.
After the Conquest the principal estates in Shropshire were all bestowed on Norman proprietors, pre-eminent among whom is Roger de Montgomery, the 1st earl of Shrewsbury, whose son Robert de Belesme forfeited his possessions for rebelling against Henry I., when the latter bestowed the earldom on his queen for life. At this period a very large portion of Shropshire was covered by its vast forests, the largest of which, Worf Forest, at its origin extended at least 8 m. in length and 6 m. in width, and became a favourite hunting-ground of the English kings. The forest of Wrekin, or Mount Gilbert as it was then called, covered the whole of that hill and extended eastward as far as Sheriff Hales. Other forests were Stiperstones, the jurisdiction of which was from time immemorial annexed to the barony of Caus, Wyre, Shirlot, Clee, Long Forest and Brewood. The constant necessity of defending their territories against the Welsh prompted the Norman lords of Shropshire to such activity in castle-building that out of 186 castles in England no less than 32 are in this county. Of these the most famous are Ludlow, founded by Roger de Montgomery; Bishop's Castle, which belonged to the bishops of Hereford; Clun Castle, built by the Fitz-Alans; Cleobury Castle, built by Hugh de Mortimer; Caus Castle, once the barony of Peter Corbett, from whom it came to the Barons Stratford; Rowton Castle, also a seat of the Corbetts; Red Castle, a seat of the Audleys. Other castles were Bridgnorth, Corfham, Holgate, Pulverbatch, Quatford, Shrewsbury and Wem.
Among the Norman religious foundations were the Cluniac Priory at Wenlock, re-established on the Saxon foundation by Roger Montgomery in 1080; the Augustinian abbey of Haughmond founded by William Fitz-Alan; the Cistercian abbey of Buildwas, now a magnificent ruin, founded in 1135 by Roger, bishop of Chester; Shrewsbury Abbey, founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomery; the Augustinian abbey of Lilleshall, founded in the reign of Stephen; the Augustinian priory of Wombridge, founded before the reign of Henry I.; the Benedictine priory of Alberbury founded by Fulk Fitz-Warin in the 13th century; and Chirbury Priory founded in the 13th century.
The fifteen Shropshire hundreds mentioned in the Domesday Survey were entirely rearranged in the reign of Henry I., and only Overs and Condover retained their original names. The Domesday hundred of Ruesset was replaced by Ford, and the hundred court transferred from Alberbury to Ford. Hodnet was the meeting-place of the Domesday hundred of Odenet, which was combined with Recordin, the largest of the Domesday hundreds, to form the modern hundred of Bradford, the latter also including part of the Domesday hundred of Pinholle in Staffordshire. The hundred of Baschurch had its meeting-place at Baschurch in the time of Edward the Confessor; in the reign of Henry I. it was represented mainly by the hundred of Pimhill, the meeting-place of which was at Pimhill. Oswestry represents the Domesday hundred of Mercete, the hundred court of which was transferred from Maesbury to Oswestry. Munslow hundred was formed in the reign of Henry I., but in the reign of Richard I. a large portion was taken out of it to form a new liberty for the priory of Wenlock, the limits of which correspond very nearly with the modern franchise of Wenlock. The Domesday hundred of Alnodestreu, abolished in the reign of Henry I., had its meeting-place at Membrefeld (Morville). The hundreds at the present day number fourteen.
Shropshire was administered by a sheriff, at least from the time of the Conquest, the first Norman sheriff being Warin the Bald, whose successor was Rainald, and in 1156 the office was held by William Fitz-Alan, whose account of the fee-farm of the county is entered in the pipe roll for that year. The shire court was held at Shrewsbury. A considerable portion of Shropshire was included in the Welsh marches, the court for the administration of which was held at Ludlow. In 1397 the castle of Oswestry with the hundred and eleven towns pertaining thereto, the castle of Isabel with the lordship pertaining thereto, and the castle of Dalaley, were annexed to the principality of Chester. By the statute of 1535 for the abolition of the marches, the lordships of Oswestry, Whittington, Masbroke and Knockin were formed into the hundred of Oswestry; the lordship of Ellesmere was joined to the hundred of Pimhill; and the lordship of Down to the hundred of Chirbury. The boundaries of Shropshire have otherwise Varied but slightly since the Domesday Survey. Richard's Castle, Ludford, and Ludlow, however, were then included in the Herefordshire hundred of Cutestornes, while several manors now in Herefordshire were assessed under Shropshire. The Shropshire manors of Kings Nordley, Aveley, Claverley and Worfield were assessed in the Domesday hundred of Saisdon in Staffordshire; and Quatt, Romsley, Rudge and Shipley in the Warwickshire hundred of Stanlei. By statute 34 and 35 Henry VIII. the town and hundred of Aberton, till then part of Merionethshire, were annexed to this county.
Shropshire in the 13th century was situated almost entirely in the dioceses of Hereford and of Coventry and Lichfield; and formed an archdeaconry called the archdeaconry of Salop. That portion of the archdeaconry in the Hereford diocese included the deaneries of Burford, Stottesdon, Ludlow, Pontesbury, Clun and Wenlock; and that portion in the Coventry and Lichfield diocese the deaneries of Salop and Newport. In 1535 the Hereford portion included the additional deanery of Bridgnorth; it now forms the archdeaconry of Ludlow, with the additional deaneries of Montgomery, Bishops Castle and Church Stretton. The archdeaconry of Salop, now entirely in the Hereford diocese, includes the deaneries of Condover, Edgmond, Ellesmere, Hodnet, Shifnal, Shrewsbury, Wem, Whitchurch and Wrockwardin. Part of Welsh Shropshire is included in the diocese of St Asaph, comprising the deanery of Oswestry in the archdeaconry of Montgomery, and two parishes in the deanery of Llangollen and the archdeaconry of Mexham. The early potical history of Shropshire is largely concerned with the constant incursions and depredations of the Welsh from across the border. The Saxon Chronicle relates that in 1053 the Welshmen slew a great many of the English wardens at Westbury, and in that year Harold ordered that any Welshman found beyond Offa's Dike within the English pale should have his right hand cut off. Various statutory measures to keep the Welsh in check were enforced in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1379 Welshmen were forbidden to purchase land in the county save on certain conditions, and this enactment was reinforced in 1400. In 1379 the men of Shropshire forwarded to parliament a complaint of the felonies committed by the men of Cheshire and of the Welsh marches, and declared the gaol of Shrewsbury Castle to be in such a ruinous condition that they had no place of imprisonment for the offenders when captured. In 1442 and again as late as 1535 acts were passed for the protection of Shropshire against the Welsh. But apart from the border warfare in which they were constantly engaged, the great Shropshire lords were actively concerned in the more national struggles. Shrewsbury Castle was garrisoned for the empress Maud by William Fitz-Alan in 1138, but was captured by Stephen in the same year. Holgate Castle was taken by King John from Thomas Mauduit, one of the rebellious barons. Ludlow and Shrewsbury were both held for a time by Simon de Montfort. At Acton Burnell in 1283 was held the parliament which passed the famous Acton Burnell statute, and a parliament was summoned to meet at Shrewsbury in 1398. During the Percy rebellion Shrewsbury was in 1403 the scene of the battle of King's Croft, in which Hotspur was slain. On the outbreak of the Civil War of the 17th century the Shropshire gentry for the most part declared for the king, who visited Shrewsbury in 1642 and received valuable contributions in plate and money from the inhabitants. A mint and printing-press were set up. at Shrewsbury, which became a refuge for the neighbouring royalist gentry. Wem, the first place to declare for the parliament, was garrisoned in 1645 by Richard Baxter. Shrewsbury was forced to surrender in 1644, and the royalist strongholds of Ludlow and Bridgnorth were captured in 1646, the latter after a four weeks' siege, during which the governor burnt part of the town for defence against the parliamentary troops.
Shropshire is noted for the number and lustre of the great families connected with it. Earl Godwin, Sweyn, Harold, Queen Edith, Edward the Confessor and Edwin and Morcar are all mentioned in the Domesday Survey as having held lands in the county before the Conquest. The principal landholders at the time of the survey were the bishop of Chester, the bishop of Hereford, the church of St Remigius, Earl Roger, Osbern Fitz-Richard, Ralph de Mortimer, Roger de Laci, Hugh Lasne and Nicholas Medicus. Earl Roger had the whole profits of Condover hundred and also owned Alnodestreu hundred. The family of Fitz-Alan, ancestors of the royal family of Stuart, had supreme jurisdiction in Oswestry hundred, which was exempt from English law. Richard Fitz-Scrob, father of Osbern Fitz-Richard and founder of Richard's Castle, was lord of the hundred of Overs at the time of the Conquest. Gatacre was the seat of the Gatacres. The barony of Pulverbatch passed from the Pulverbatches, and was purchased in 1193 by John de Kilpeck for £100. The family of Cornwall were barons of Burford and of Harley for many centuries. The family of Lestrange owned large estates in Shropshire after the Conquest, and Fulk Lestrange claimed the right of holding pleas of the crown in Wrockworthyn in 1292. Among others claiming rights of jurisdiction in their Shropshire states in the same year were Edmund de Mortimer, the abbot of Cumbermere, the prior of Lanthony, the prior of Great Malvern, the bishop of Lichfield, Peter Corbett, Nicholas of Audley, the abbot of Lilleshall, John of Mortayn, Richard Fitz-Alan, the bishop of Hereford and the prior of Wenlock.
The earliest industries of Shropshire took their rise from its abundant natural resources; the rivers supplying valuable fisheries; the vast forest areas abundance of timber; while the mineral products of the county had been exploited from remote times. The lead mines of Shelve and Stiperstones were worked by the Romans, and in 1220 Robert Corbett conferred on Shrewsbury Abbey a tithe of his lead from the mine at Shelve. In 1260 licence was granted to dig coal in the Clee Hills, and in 1291 the abbot of Wigmore received the profits of a coal-mine at Caynham. Iron was dug in the Clee Hills and at Wombridge in the 16th century. Wenlock had a famous copper-mine in the reign of Richard II., and in the 16th century was noted for its limestone. The Domesday Survey mentions salt-works at Ditton Priors, Caynham and Donnington. As the forest areas were gradually cleared and brought under cultivation, the county became more exclusively agricultural. In 1343 Shropshire wool was rated at a higher value than that of almost any other English county, and in the 13th and 14th centuries Buildwas monastery exported wool to the Italian markets. Shropshire has never been distinguished for any characteristic manufactures, but a prosperous clothing trade arose about Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth, and Oswestry was famous in the 16th century for its fine Welsh cottons.
Antiquities.—The ecclesiastical ruins and buildings of Shropshire are numerous and beautiful. Among the numerous monastic buildings the finest remains are those of Shrewsbury Abbey, Lilleshall near Newport, White Ladies nunnery near Shifnal, Much Wenlock priory and Bromfield priory near Ludlow (see the towns named). Besides these, Haughmond, 5 m. N.E. of Shrewsbury, an Augustinian foundation of the 12th century, has left extensive remains including a chapter-house, hall, monks' well and other domestic buildings. Of Buildwas Abbey, on the Severn above Coalbrookdale, a Cistercian foundation of 1135, there are fine Norman and Early English remains of the church and chapter-house, together with the abbot's house and a series of passages below ground. Among the churches of the larger towns, those of Bridgnorth and Ludlow are conspicuous. Among village churches, those of Stottesdon and Stanton Lacy in the south of the county, show considerable traces of pre-Conquest construction. Of Norman date those of Wroxeter, in which fragments from Uriconium are incorporated, Claverley E. of Bridgnorth, Holdgate or Holgate in Corvedale and Clun, are good examples, but there is a remarkable number of Norman doors and fonts throughout the county. The church of Cleobury Mortimeris good Early English, and that of Tong near Shifnal fine Perpendicular with a splendid series of tombs, while the churchyard cross at Bitterley, near Titterstone Clee, is a beautiful specimen of the work of the same period. The solitary church of Battlefield, N. of Shrewsbury, marks the scene of the fight between Henry IV. and the Percies in 1403.
The remains of castles are generally slight, but the noble ruins at Ludlow are a noteworthy exception. The powerful fortress of Clun and the castle at Holdgate are Norman. Of the 13th century are those at Hopton near Clun and Acton Burnell, S.E. of Shrewsbury, where Edward I. held parliament in 1283. Middle Castle between Shrewsbury and Wem shows small ruins of the 14th century. At Moreton Corbet on the Roden, N.E. of Shrewsbury, there is an old castellated mansion, but by far the finest example of this type in the county, and one of the best in England, is Stokesay Castle near Craven Arms. This beautiful relic dates from the 13th century, and is almost perfect, having a large hall and massive southern tower, and a remarkable half-timbered gatehouse. Shropshire is also rich in medieval domestic buildings, and in the streets of Ludlow and Shrewsbury are many beautiful examples of half-timbered architecture. Among old country mansions may be specially noted the half-timbered Pitchford Hzill, near Shrewsbury and Benthall Hall, near Broseley, dating from 1535.