1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wem

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WEM, a market town in the northern parliamentary division of Shropshire, England, 11 m. N. of Shrewsbury on the London & North Western railway. Pop. (igoi), 3796. It is a pleasantly situated town with a considerable agricultural trade. The church of St Peter and St Paul retains a Norman tower. Flour-milling and tanning are the chief industries. In the neighbourhood is the splendid domain of Hawkstone. In the reign of Edward the Confessor Wem was held as four manors, but at the time of the Domesday Survey William Pantulf was holding the whole as one manor of Roger, earl of Shrewsbury, from whom it passed to the Botelers, barons of Wem. The famous Judge Jeffreys was among the subsequent lords of the manor and was created Baron Jeffreys of Wem in 1685, but upon the death of his only son and heir in 1720 the title became extinct. The town was a borough by prescription, but there appears to be no mention of burgesses before the 15th century. In 1459 Ralph, Lord Greystock, is said to have granted a charter, no longer extant, to his tenants in the manor, and in 1674 the freeholders, “borough-holders” and copy holders, of Wem brought an action against Daniel Wicherley, then lord of the manor, for the establishment of customs and privileges chiefly connected with the tenure of their lands and tenements, which was decided in their favour. The borough was governed by two bailiffs, both elected at the court leet of the lord of the manor, one by his steward, the other by a borough jury, but in the beginning of the 19th century there were only seventy-two burgesses and their rights seem to have gradually disappeared. An urban district council was formed in 1900. Wem has never been represented in parliament. The market was originally held on Sunday under grant from John to Warin Fitz Gerald in 1205, but in 1351, in consequence of a protest from the archbishop of Canterbury, it was changed to Thursday, on which day it is still held. The grant of 1205 also included a fair at the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, which was maintained until within recent years, when fairs were also held at the feast of St Mark, chiefly for linen cloth, under grant from Charles I. to Thomas Howard in 1636, and at the feast of St Martin, bishop of Tours, for the sale of hops. A great fire which broke out at Wem on the 3rd of March 1677 caused damage to the extent of £23,677.

See Victoria County History, Shropshire; Samuel Garbet, The History of Wem (1818).