The Stone Age is subdivided into three periods:-
Palaeolithic (100,000-10,000 BC) towards the end of this period, people inhabited Britain and were hunters and food gatherers. They seem to have organised themselves in family groups rather than larger tribes.
Mesolithic (10,000-4,000 BC) when people began to make and use stone tools, as well as pottery.
Neolithic (4,000-2,000 BC) when people stopped being nomads and began to grow crops and domesticate animals.
During the last Ice Age, Shropshire was covered by ice up to 300 metres thick until about 20,000 years ago. The only part of Shropshire above the level of the ice was the Stiperstones Ridge. Prior to the ice arriving, the River Severn flowed northwards to the River Dee estuary. When it arrived, the water stopped flowing and, when the ice retreated, the meltwater was trapped and formed a series of large lakes, which eventually merged to form Lake Lapworth in present day Leicestershire. This lake overflowed to the South-East and the water carved out the Ironbridge Gorge, thus creating the present course of the River Severn. At this time, there were mammoths living in Shropshire and their remains have been found at Condover.
Britain was inhabited by Neolithic tribes between 4,000-2,500 BC and there is evidence of farming in Shropshire at this time. It is likely that they migrated up the Severn Valley. The earliest known Stone Age settlement in Shropshire is at the Roveries hill fort in South-West Shropshire, where excavations have revealed prior use dating back to the Neolithic period. This included a hearth area and several fragments of pottery, suggesting that it was inhabited about 2,000 years before the Iron Age hillfort was constructed. Flint microliths (small stone tools) have been found at Grinshill, to the North of Shrewsbury, indicating a human presence in the Neolithic period. Since there are no flint deposits in Shropshire, these people must have been trading with other areas of the country.
Stone Age people often buried their dead in stone chambers. A few such prehistoric burial sites have been found around Shropshire. Similarly, there are a number of standing stones and circles. As humans began to have a less nomadic way of life, people and goods started to move over great distances. Lowland Shropshire was densely forested and so ridgeways made the easier and safer course over high ground. The Portway was a major ridgeway over the Long Mynd that was used by Neolithic axe traders and was still recognised as the Kings Highway up until the Middle Ages. The area around Clun seems to have been most popular during the Neolithic period and archaeologists have discovered over 1,000 flint tools and weapons from that area.
The Neolithic inhabitants were very skilled at making stone tools. A lot of people assume that such tools were all made of flint but many other types of rock were used, often hard igneous varieties. They excelled at the difficult art of knapping, where a lump of rock was struck with another piece to break off a flake. These often had sharp edges that could be used to cut with. Such small tools are called microliths and examples include knives, scrapers (small ones were called thumb scrapers) adzes, picks, scythes and arrowheads. Another common tool found is the stone axe or hammer. This can take various forms and would have been lashed onto a wooden handle, had a hole for the wood to be wedged into or had splits in the wooden handle to fit the axe head in. There were a number of stone axe factories around Britain where the local rock was usually igneous or metamorphic and thus particularly hard. In many cases, it is possible to identify from the stone used exactly where it came from.
The period of history from 2,000 BC to 800 BC is usually referred to as the Bronze Age. This is because the primary material for tools and weapons was an amalgam of copper and tin metals called bronze. It could be produced in primitive smelters and cast in moulds.
Remains of Bronze Age settlements are not common in Britain and none have been recorded in Shropshire so far. It is believed that many tribes led a nomadic lifestyle based on cattle and agriculture so did not build to last. There is evidence of tree clearing at this time to make space for crops and communities were often based near rivers for transport. Burial mounds were built during this time on areas of high ground. As well as providing a place to inter the cremated remains of their dead, the tumuli may also be where a tribe gathered at certain times of the year for religious purposes.
IRON AGE HISTORY OF SHROPSHIRE
The period of history from 800 BC to 43 AD is usually referred to as the Iron Age. This is because the primary material for tools and weapons was iron. It could be produced in primitive smelters and cast in moulds.
Shropshire was occupied by a Celtic tribe called the Cornovii, who were here both before and after the Roman occupation. The use of iron as a metal made weapons and tools much more efficient. Iron ore was plentiful locally and most villages would have had primitive smelting facilities.
It was a period when hill forts were built and occupied on top of hills around the county. We have many examples around us, notably on Caer Caradoc. Despite this, many communities began to live on lower lying land near rivers, particularly along the Severn Valley between Montford Bridge and Buildwas. All were near a hill fort so in times of danger they could take their families, cattle and possessions into the fort for protection. Prior to the arrival of the Romans, the tribal capital was at the Wrekin hillfort.
Many villages kept herds of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs for meat and skins. The woodlands were cleared to make fields for growing oats, wheat, barley, rye, peas, beans, onions and cabbage. The people lived in what are now called roundhouses. These were built with upright timber posts, interwoven with coppiced wood that was covered with clay, soil, manure and straw to make it warm and waterproof. The roof was thatched. In the centre of the roundhouse was an open fire, which would have been used for cooking, heating and light, with the smoke escaping through a hole in the roof.
ROMAN HISTORY OF SHROPSHIRE
The first unsuccessful Roman invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar was in BC 55 but he never reached Shropshire on that occasion. In AD 43, the Roman Army under the Emperor Claudius mounted a successful invasion of Britain and defeated 11 tribes in the south-east. The Romans set up their capital at Camulodunum (Colchester) and Claudius returned to Rome. Their occupation was to last until AD 408.
It took time for the legions to pacify all of the British tribes and it wasnt until AD 47 that they arrived in Shropshire to pacify the local Cornovii tribe. The Romans under Governor Aulus Plautius fought a battle at the Wrekin Hillfort and defeated the local tribe. The latter are believed to have been led by the Cornovian noble Virico, who died at the head of a few hundred tribesmen. This is the only major conflict between the tribe and the invaders, suggesting either that the Cornovii were not a very warlike people or they lacked the tribal cohesiveness to put up an organised resistance.
The Romans immediately set about building roads and the large city of Viroconium (Wroxeter) was developed around the site of a Roman fort. Previously, Celtic settlements had been haphazard collections of houses, usually in small farming communities. The new Roman city was planned properly with a street pattern, bath houses, shops and government buildings. It eventually became the fourth largest walled Roman city in Britain, behind London, Cirencester and St Albans. At its peak Viroconium had nearly 15,000 inhabitants. The fort was the Roman base for operations against the Silures tribe and the 14th legion was initially based here, later replaced by the 20th Legion.
Watling Street was the most important Roman road in Shropshire and most of its route became the A5 road. It ran from Dover to Viroconium (Wroxeter). Travellers on the road were served by a system of way stations (Mansios). There were also privately owned inns (Cauponae), which provided basic hostel-like accommodation. Better accommodation for those who could afford it was in houses (Tabernae), which offered bed and breakfast. Travellers also needed sufficient money to pay the various tolls along the way.
The Romans mined for lead at several locations near Shelve, including the Roman Gravels Mine. The process used hushing, where water was dammed up and suddenly released to wash away the soil and reveal the rock below with its mineral veins. Underground workings were only shallow and triangular in cross-section. Nothing remains of these today due to destruction from later mining activity. The lead ore contained a small amount of silver that was extracted during smelting, providing about 2½ ounces of silver per ton. Several Roman pigs (ingots) of lead have been found with the inscription IMP HADRIANI AUG (Emperor Hadrian Augustus).
From the late 3rd Century, Britain went through a period of unrest. Attacks mounted from rebellious tribes and increasing maintenance costs led to much of Viroconium falling into disrepair. By 408 AD, attacks all over the Roman Empire resulted in the legions being withdrawn from Britain. Viroconium was abandoned and the Emperor Honorius told the British that they must now defend themselves.
DARK AGE HISTORY OF SHROPOSHIRE
The period after the Romans left Britain in 410 is very confusing and is commonly called the Dark Ages because of the lack of written historical records. Details were passed on by word of mouth or in songs and only recorded in later years by monks, who often placed their own bias on them. Another term used for this period is Romano-British, to reflect how the Cornovii had adopted some of the Roman ways and took over their buildings and roads. They mostly retained their own religion and customs but sometimes copied Roman weapons and military methods.
The Celtic tribe living in the Shropshire area were the Cornovii and, in the early stages, many minor chieftains declared themselves as kings, fighting amongst each other to expand their lands. Eventually these local areas were merged into the kingdom of Powys, with the capital being Caer Uriconio (Wrekin hill fort) and a thriving city at Viroconium. Cadeyrn was the king of Powys and he was a son of Vortigern, who acted as a war lord controlling a number of British tribes. Angles Jutes and Saxons (commonly just referred to as Saxons) began to push westwards to gain territory and there were a number of battles between them and the British tribes.
The struggles of this period have given rise to the legends of Uther Pendragon and King Arthur.
500 The incursions culminated in the Battle of Mons Badonicus, where the British warlord Ambrosius Aurelianus beat the Saxons and stopped the incursions for a number of years.
549 - A plague arrived in Britain and Welsh communities were devastated, with villages and countryside seriously depopulated. Faced with shrinking manpower and increasing Saxon encroachment, King Brochwel Ysgithrog moved his court from the Wrekin to The Berth hill fort at Baschurch.
570 The kingdom of Powys split up and Shropshire became part of the new kingdom of Pengwern.
577 - The Saxons, under the command of Ceawlin and Cutha, won a victory over the Britons at Deorham, near Bristol, and began to push their way up the valley of the Severn. This defeat was a disaster, as it separated Pengwern from Dumnonia and Caer Celemion (Silchester).
584 The Saxons had penetrated as far as Fethanleag (possibly in Staffordshire where Cutha was slain) and Ceawlin sacked many towns. Among them was Viroconium, which he left as a smoking ruin. The surviving Celts moved to the Berth hill fort, which appears to have escaped undamaged.
612 Members of the royal family of Dogfeilion (based in Gwynedd) took over the territory of Pengwern, with Cyndrwyn the Stubborn becoming overall king.
613 - Cyndrwyn took part in the Battle of Chester where, as an ally of Powys, he shared a defeat at the hands of the invading army of Aehelfrith of Northumbria. At the commencement of the battle, Aehelfrith had 1,200 monks from the monastery of Bangor-Is-Coed slaughtered because he said "they fight against us, because they oppose us by their prayers". King Selyf of Powys was killed in the battle, leaving a baby son Manwgan ap Selyf as his heir. Seeing an opportunity, Cyndrwyns son Cynddylan helped his brother Eluan to replace the baby king. Cyndrwyn now controlled a large area of Shropshire, Cheshire and north-east Wales, with his sons being sub-kings, ie Cynddylan (Pengwern), Eulan (Powys) and Morfael (Glastenning).
620 Upon the death of Cyndrwyn, his son Cynddylan took his place and the capital of all the three kingdoms became The Berth hill fort, which was re-named Llys Pengwern.
King Aethelfrith of Northumbria had been killed at the battle of the River Idle in 616 and his place taken by Edwin, who immediately banished Aethelfriths sons Oswald and Oswiu. King Edwin was declared Bretwalda (Lord of Briton) and set about expanding Northumbrian power.
This expansion brought him into conflict with Mercia, Gwynedd and Powys. Edwin was initially successful against them but in the end these enemies united under the leadership of the powerful King Penda of Mercia and King Cadwallon of Gwynedd. They invaded Northumbria and killed Edwin at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in 633, then proceeding to ravage Northumbria. Oswald returned from exile took over the throne of Northumbria, killing Cadwallon at the Battle of Heavenfield in 634.
Oswald in turn became Bretwalda and himself began to expand Northumbria power. In 642 he overstretched himself, driving deep into enemy territory to the Welsh borders. He was opposed by King Penda of Mercia, together with King Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn of Powys and King Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon of Gwynedd. They met at the Battle of Maserfield, where Oswalds army was defeated and himself killed.
After the defeat his enemies chopped up his body and according to legend, one of his arms was carried to an ash tree by an eagle. Oswald was Christian and Penda pagan so this event became part of the Christian legend. Oswald was named a saint and miracles were then reported near the tree. It was said that the plain of Maserfeld was white with the bones of the Saints". What is more likely is that his enemies hung his body in a tree, or on poles. Whatever the truth the name of the site derived from a reference to Oswalds Tree. After the battle, Penda claimed authority over all of Mercia until his death against the Bernicians at the Battle of Winwaed in 655.
Maserfield was the old name for the area and probably meant marshy field. Local tradition places it near Oswalds Well and the fields of Oswestry School (SJ284292) are thought to be the site of the battle.
655 - Cynddylan and his brother Morfael took part in the Battle of Lichfield, where they defeated a Saxon army. Soon after, following further Saxon incursions, he and his brothers Eulan and Morfael fought again at Battle of the River Tern, next to a ford at Wroxeter. Penda had meanwhile been having problems with Oswalds son Oswui, who was now king of Northumbria. He thus persuaded Cynddylan and a number of other Celts to join him in an invasion of Oswuis territory. Their army was ambushed near Leeds at the Battle of Winwaed and Penda plus nearly thirty of his allied commanders were killed, although Cynddulan escaped.
656 - A vengeful Northumbrian raiding party led by Oswiu overran Cynddylan's palace at Llys Pengwern in a surprise attack. Caught completely off guard, Cynddylan and his family were slaughtered. His sister Princess Heledd was the only survivor and fled to western Powys.
MEDIEVAL HISTORY OF SHROPSHIRE
Between 656 1066AD, Shropshire was ruled by Saxon Kings with interventions by the Danes! In 656 a raiding party of Saxons killed the Celtic king Cynddylan and his kingdom of Pengwern was absorbed into the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Saxon settlement in Shropshire continued and Shrewsbury was renamed from the Celtic Pengwern to the Saxon Scrobbesbyrig. In 779 King Offa drove the Welsh King of Powys from Shrewsbury and secured his conquests with a second defensive earthwork known as Offas Dyke that was constructed from the river Dee to the Wye.
In 874 a Viking raid destroyed Much Wenlock Priory. In 918 Mercia was absorbed into the kingdom of Wessex under King Edward the elder and in 1006, the Kingdom was organised into Shires and Scrobbesbyrigscire (Shropshire) was created. In 1013 a Danish invasion beat King Aethelred the Unready in battle and England was ruled by the Danish King, Sweyn Forkbeard. In 1042, England was won back from the Danes by the Saxon king Edward the Confessor and over the next few years much of Shropshire was laid to waste by the Welsh. In 1053 King Harold decreed that any Welshman found this side of Offas Dyke should have his right hand cut off. In 1066 King Harold Godwinson was defeated by William the Conquerer. In 1066 the entire ruling class of Saxon Theigns, or landowners was replaced by Williams appointees. The constant necessity to defend their territories against the Welsh promoted the Norman Lords in Shropshire into castle building and of 186 castles built in England, no fewer than 32 were built in this county. Williams favourite was Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and Peter Corbett whose family still live down the road!
The parish was probably formed in the later 12th century when the manors of Lydley (including 'Botley', Botvyle, and Comley) and Cardington (including Chatwall, Enchmarsh, and Willstone) were united in the hands of the Knights Templars with a pension from Cardington Church. The Order was establisher by the Pope in 1129 and the knights wore the distinctive white mantles with a red cross over their armour and their original purpose was to protect pilgrims from bandits on their journey to Jerusalem. In 1158 Herbert de Castello granted the Templars land at Botville and William FitzAlan granted them Cardington and Enchmarsh and half of Chatwall and a pension from Cardington Church. They appropriated the church in 1186 and the first documented priest of Cardington was Arnulf. The Templars established their headquarters or Preceptory, at Lydley which later became Penkridge Hall which is still situated on the west slopes of the Lawley. After the suppression of the Templars in 1308, Cardington Church was taken over by the Knights Hospitallers and given to the Crown in 1314. (The date of the great Scots victory over the English at the battle of Bannockburn in case you have forgotten!)
SAINT JAMES CARDINGTON
The church of St James at Cardington stands in the centre of the village on ground raised slightly above the surrounding lanes. Recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 'Cardintune' was held by two persons both named Austin before 1066. It is not known whether there was a church before the present one was begun at some time in the twelfth century. The stone building is mostly coursed rubble and has a tower, nave and chancel showing evidence of Norman, Early English and Gothic architecture.
The castellated tower is visible from whichever direction the village is approached. In the second half of the twelfth century the village become known as Templars' Cardington having been given in 1167 by William FitzAlan to the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem whose preceptory in Shropshire was at the nearby manor of Lydley Hayes. There were 34 tenants who paid a small sum each year for the privilege of living under the protection of the Poor Knights of Christ.
The first known vicar was Arnolf in 1185 but there is also recorded a married priest called Inard or Quand who, with his wife, Mathilda, paid a small sum each year to the Templars. It is interesting because priests at that time were not supposed to marry. In 1308 Templars were suppressed and the Order disbanded. Their possessions of Lydley Hayes and Cardington were presented to a similar order, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem or Knights Hospitallers, but by 1316the gift was returned to Edmund FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel.
The eastern part of the NAVE is thought to have been built in the second half of the 12th century. A blocked doorway and a window survive in each side wall. It was extended westward towards the end of the century with new north and south doorways. The north doorway, now blocked, has a tympanum which may have been re-used from an earlier position and reversed though Dr. Cranage thought it might have been a millstone. It can be seen from outside the church.
In the 13th century the long CHANCEL which replaced a smaller one, and the lower part of the TOWER were added and it can be seen that both are externally as wide as the NAVE. The CHANCEL has a restored triple lancet window in the east wall and a single and a two light window in each side wall. The Priest's Door in the north wall has a very strong wooden bolt and between this door and the single light window an aumbry or 'cupboard' is set deeply in the wall for keeping the sacrament and oil. On the opposite wall there is a double cinque-foiled piscina for washing the chalice and the priest's hands. This was discovered during restoration work to the tomb of Judge Leighton who died in 1607 and whose effigy nearby performs the useful function of supporting a leek at the time of Harvest Festival. Three sons and five daughters, one of whom died in infancy, kneel at the base of the tomb.
In the 14th century three two light windows were inserted in the NAVE, one in the north side and two in the south, and in the 15th or early 16th century an upper stage and battlements were added to the TOWER and roofs to the NAVE and CHANCEL. (One wonders what protected the congregation from the elements before this event.) The roof of the CHANCEL has tie and collar beams with quatrefoils between the purlins and that of the NAVE is similar but with braces instead of quatrefoils.
The PORCH was built in 1639 and bears the date and various initials carved on a small wooden shield above the gates. The lower side walls are of stone and the upper part of wooden spindles is now protected on one side by glass and on the other by the notice board. The churchwardens' accounts for 1717 give an interesting statement: Pd for proclaiming ye Child that was left in ye Church Porch in Shrewsbury Bridgenorth & Wenlock 0 2 6" and Pd Widdow Pigg for clothing ye child that was left in ye Porch 0 5 0". The great door to the church has the date 1648 carved in its wood and the initials RC, Richard Corfield, and other initials WB and CW.
In 1703 a window was inserted in the south wall of the NAVE between the PORCH and the TOWER and in 1741-2 a gallery was placed in the west end of the NAVE. This was later removed, perhaps in 1867-8 when restoration work was undertaken when a stone wall or screen between the NAVE and the CHANCEL was also removed. A record shows that there was a dormer window at the east end of the NAVE in 1789 but this may also have been removed in the same restoration. A Norman tub font with arcaded decoration was replaced by the present one in 1868 as a memorial to the Rev. William Jones Hughes who died in 1865 and was the vicar for forty years. There appears to be no information as to what became of the original Norman font which may be lying neglected in a nettlebed or forgotten in a farmyard.
The Jacobean pulpit is curiously embellished with five carved panels showing what are said to be mermen but could they, perhaps, depict symbolical fishermen? Three of the creatures have similar fish tails and two are slightly different although like each other. There is a carved wooden panel against the wall over a shelf. Records show that a faculty, or license, was obtained in 1685 to move the pulpit and reading pew from the north to the south side where there was more light but, as can be seen, the pulpit is now back on the north side. Damage may have been incurred in the shifting or perhaps the move was never actually accomplished. The reading pew was replaced in 1910 with a lectern in the form of the traditional eagle. A fine carved panel of the Crucifixion in the centre of the front of the altar was taken originally from the pulpit. The Elizabethan pews have been repaired and restored and many of them are marked with the carved initials of members of the congregation.
In the CHANCEL a wooden reredos was placed behind the altar in 1897 which obscures part of the beautiful Early English window and could perhaps be better admired in another part of the church. The wall behind the altar is covered with brightly coloured glazed tiles with the words "DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME" in the middle and two saints on either side. Grapes and ears of wheat adorn the words. Below this, resting on the altar, a long rectangular piece of wood has the words "HOLY HOLY HOLY" carved on it and in the centre, on a block of wood, is a carving of the Crown of Thorns with three nails and a hammer. The raised block is for supporting the Cross. These embellishments, with the decorative tiles on the floor, must have been part of the restoration and improvements of the last part of the nineteenth century. It would be interesting to discover the maker of the tiles. The tiles in the NAVE are much older and there are four in the floor by the font decorated in the encaustic manner of medieval times showing a leaf much like that of Ranunculus Repans which rampages through my garden. The tiles were carved and then clay of a different colour was pressed into the design. They are sometimes still made today.
The TOWER houses eight bells. Originally there were four beds for four bells hung in line on a medieval timber "A" frame and rung from the vestry floor. It is thought that the frame may be the oldest in England. In 1985 a new ringing gallery incorporating the organ platform was installed in the vestry space. The new pipe organ was installed in November the same year. Entries from old records show that in 1553 there were three bells, in 1740 four, and in 1752 five. It then appears that in 1887 the old treble, and third (originally cast in 1740 and 1630 respectively), were recast to make a ring of four. There is no mention of a fifth bell and it appears that it had been removed some time in the late 18th or early 19th century.
In 1981 the old ring of four were completely restored by Taylors of Loughborough, and installed in the clock room in an iron frame with new fittings. This new frame was installed beneath the old timber frame, which was retained in situ because of its medieval origin. On 2nd September 1985 a stone, let into the jamb of the west window and engraved with a set of old belfry rules and dated 14th February 1755, was removed by the Tower Captain and re-positioned in the ringing chamber where it can be more easily read and heeded. In 1990 two new trebles were cast by Taylors, thus making a ring of six. They were dedicated on All Saints Day, 1st November 1990. Then in 2005, thanks to a generous legacy from Kath Cooke, a long-term resident and past bellringer of Cardington, and the enthusiasm of Mike Pickering the Tower Captain, a further two trebles were added, again by Taylors, completing the ring of eight. These were dedicated by the Bishop of Hereford on 5th February 2006.
The new pipe organ was dedicated on 29th April 1986 and marked with a glorious recital by Boy Massey.
The TOWER also holds the clock and an article from The Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News of April 27th 1889 reports on the dedication of the new clock at Easter of that year which suggests there was an earlier one: "On Monday a fair number gathered to assist in the service of dedication of the new clock. As the hour of noon arrived the pendulum was started by Mr E Sayer, of Plaish Hall, and all the inhabitants were unfeignedly glad to hear once again the time tolled forth from the church tower". Afterwards "All present then adjourned to the Schoolroom to partake of cake and wine on the invitation of the Rev T L Tudor Fitzjohn, where a vote of thanks was passed to Mr Sayer for starting the clock, the vicar and churchwardens, and to all those parishioners and friends who have so generously contributed to the fund." Cake and wine are still enjoyed in the Schoolroom on those occasions when there is something to celebrate. When the false floor of the vestry was removed early in the 21st century a stone slab representing a cherub and some Roman numerals was found, almost certainly part of the pre-1889 clock face.
There are various memorials in the church, some rather difficult to decipher, but one to Roger Maunsell on the north wall of the NAVE records his charities of 1693 and there are two brasses with skulls and crossed bones in the CHANCEL. The one on the north wall is to Thomas Norris who died April 21st 1753 and on the opposite wall is one to Ann Tipton, 8th August 1788.
The CHURCHYARD surrounds the church and has five gateways, two with small wooden gates at the top of steep steps on the east side and three with larger wooden gates. The one on the south side is the Funeral gale and the one by the War Memorial is known as the Wedding gate. This gale and the one on the west side are dedicated In Memory of Audrey Evelyn Hutchinson 1905 1981. The War Memorial has the names of fourteen men of the parish who gave their lives in the 1914-18 war, and a stone on the north wall of the CHANCEL bears the name of Stephen Thomas who died in the 1939 - 1945 war. There are a number of old tombstones in the churchyard and many of the inscriptions are barely legible. On one is a carving of doves' heads and two have verses recording the deaths of children:
"Always suppose thy death is nigh And seek to be prepared to die".Mary Painter March 15th 1877.
On walking round the churchyard and observing the church from the outside it may been seen where some of the changes and extensions were made through the ages, where doorways were closed and windows were opened. High in the east wall of the CHANCEL above the Early English window is what appears to be a blocked window, rectangular on the outside and square on the inside. Many questions remain unanswered.
SAINT JAMES THE GREAT
The church was dedicated to him by 1542. He is often represented as a pilgrim with the emblem of the scallop or cockle-shell, the 'Coquille St-Jacques', but he is also shown with a sword and may be seen on the right of the altar in the decorative tiles next to St. Peter who holds the Keys. The other two saints hold books, the one next to the alter is St. Andrew and the other is St. John. The church celebrates St-James' Feast Day .
(Written by Min Bland In Memory of W D B)
For almost 1½ km. the north-western boundary of the parish followed Watling Street (West) through the Church Stretton valley. Parallel to, and ½ km. from, that road the ground rises sharply from less than 183 m. to Little Caradoc (the lower part of Caer Caradoc hill) and the Lawley (377 m.). North -east of the Lawley are the high parallel ridges of Hoar Edge (312 m.) and Yell Bank (321m.), while south-east of Caradoc rise Willstone hill, the parish's highest point (403 m.), and Cardington hill. Eastwards thence the land falls to c. 122 m. at the Hughley boundary.
OVERVIEW OF THE GEOLOGY SURROUNDING CARDINGTON PARISH
Church Stretton, in Shropshire, lies in the bottom of a narrow valley. At first sight, it appears to be a rift valley but is, in fact, a simple fault that downthrows Silurian rocks to the west of the fault where they lie on Precambrian sedimentary rocks. The fault on the east side of the Church Stretton Valley is the primary one in a suite that transgress approximately NNE across the country on either side of the prominent hill of Caer Caradoc. About 570 million years ago, south Shropshire lay close to the Antarctic Circle and was probably a section of an island arc. The rocks laid down in this ancient arc can be seen in the Precambrian Uriconian volcanics which are exposed along the Church Stretton fault system and to the west along the Pontesford-Linley fault. Lying between the two are late Precambrian Longmyndian sediments. During the Cadomian orogeny at the very end of the Precambrian, these volcanics and sediments were deformed and initiation of the two fault systems probably occurred, with much tear faulting affecting the formation of the Longmynd syncline lying to the west of the Church Stretton valley. In Cambrian times, 540 million years ago, a marine transgression laid down shallow water sediments over Shropshire, notably the Wrekin Quartzite, followed by deeper water in the early Ordovician Tremadoc series, when the muddy sediments of the Shineton Shales were formed. However, tectonic conditions caused regression of the sea westwards so preventing sedimentation in the Arenig, Llanvirn and Llandeilo series. Sea level rise around 460 million years ago produced the Caradocian marine transgression over the Welsh Borderland, laying down shallow water sediments in the Caradoc-type area. The collision of Avalonia and Baltica at the end of Ordovician times produced the folding and major faulting seen in the Shropshire area.
A GEOLOGICAL WALK FROM WILLSTONE TO CARADOC
The walk starts from Willstone, a hamlet 2km south west of the village of Cardington by following the old road to Church Stretton, now a steep, rutted track. It climbs up over the slightly overturned Ordovician Cheney Longville Flags and the alternata Limestone, and then follows the dip slope of the Chatwall Sandstone. Since Roman times, the buildings have been constructed from the sandstone and the Hoar Edge Grit, which you walk over later, while the Cheney Longville Flags have been extensively used for roofing in the area. As you climb the track you will see the Battlestones, a hill composed of Precambrian Uriconian rhyolites above the Sharpstones thrust, about a kilometre to our left. After walking 600 metres uphill, the first locality was reached in a small quarry, being an exposure in the Chatwall Sandstones showing purplish brown broken sandstone with an almost vertical dip. Rare shell bands containing gastropods can be found in the current bedding, indicating that these were sandbanks in shallow water. A short distance further on, the next stop is about 70 metres across the field on your right. From this vantage point, Caer Caradoc, formed of Precambrian volcanic rocks, rises up in front of you. In the slightly lower ground between you and the hill, the third fault (F3) of the Church Stretton fault complex, running SW/NE, cut through the Harnage Shales and Hoar Edge Grit. The F2 fault can be seen beyond, approximately a third up the slope of Caer Caradoc, and marked by slight changes in topography and vegetation The track goes downhill for about 120 metres over the Chatwall Flags and the Chatwall Sandstones, both with nearly vertical bedding, and then becomes quite muddy and boggy, marking the position of the Harnage Shales. Fault F3 could be seen by the abrupt change of terrain where the Hoar Edge Grit starts, marked also by a slight ridge. Some 400 metres onwards, a small exposure of the grit yields moulds of brachiopods and dreikanters (or ventifacts) of quartz - windblown quartz grains with polished faces. The Grit is interpreted as the base of a Late Ordovician shoreline. Taking the footpath to your right, you walk up the broad slope of Caer Caradoc over well-drained ground on the Hoar Edge Grit with, to your left and lower down, further boggy areas marking the Harnage Shales, with an obvious line of springs at the junction of the two beds. At the bottom of the steep north slope of Caer Caradoc where the path passes through a gate, stop to admire Murchisons View. Looking east: over fault F2 from the slope formed of Uriconian volcanics, you can see the long wooded ridge of the Silurian reef which is Wenlock Edge while further around to the south, the Battlestones ridge rises up only a kilometre or so from your vantage point. This Uriconian volcanic suite is formed from andesites with some basalts and rhyolites. Resuming our walk in the bright sunlight, we climbed the steepening slope to the summit of Caer Caradoc, passing through a depression in the wall of the Iron Age fort earthwork which encircles the top of the hill. At the southern end, you look down into Church Stretton valley where the primary fault F1 of the Church Stretton Fault system downthrows the Silurian sediments to the valley floor. Beyond them, the Precambrian Longmyndian sediments rose up as well-rounded, bare hills. Around you, the grey vesicular Caer Caradoc andesites can be examined easily while, about 200 metres down the south ridge, an obvious outcrop of rock of different colour and texture marked the finely bedded Ragleth Tuffs. These dip steeply to the west and show clear bedding. They are Precambrian rocks and are part of the Longmyndian Group of, probably, water-lain sediments laid down in an adjacent fore-arc basin. Climbing back from the exposure of the Ragleth tuffs, you reach the main ridge and then move north to the highest point of Caer Caradoc which is marked by the pink crags of the Caer Caradoc Rhyolites - fine-grained acid lavas or pyroclastic flows which are clearly brecciated and, in places, show banding. The rhyolites are faulted against the andesites and have been dated on Overly Hill, near the Wrekin, at 566 million years. To the north of the peak of Caer Caradoc, the rhyolites are vesicular with amygdales of chalcedony. From our vantage point, there was an extensive view of the Fault system to The Lawley and The Wrekin in the north, the scarp and vale scenery of Ordovician and Silurian sedimentary rocks of Wenlock Edge to the east and then the Carboniferous-topped Clee Hills. On the north slope of the hill, small exposures of black vesicular basalts can be examined with amygdales of calcite and chlorite. On this side, called Little Caradoc, the basalts are not contemporaneous with the rhyolites, having been faulted against them but with the contact not now visible. From the last locality, you return to Murchisons View and then retraced your steps back to Willston.
(This walk was led by Dr. Peter Toghill of the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Birmingham as part of the weekend organised by the Shropshire Geological Society and gave a new perspective on the geology of the Church Stretton area which had not been visited since a Bath Geological Society weekend in the 1980s, led by Professor Mike Bassett)
The earliest surviving secular buildings in the parish are the Barracks in Cardington village and Shootrough Farm, both of which have late medieval ranges. The Barracks, apparently a substantial residence, had a timber framed open hall with a crown-post roof and cusped laterals and was where the small garrison of troops who were the bodyguard of Judge Layton of Plaish Chief Justice of the Welsh Marches were billeted. Shootrough hall (1422) was cruck framed. Two other cruck-built halls partly survive: Comley Cottage and the Dayhouse at Lydley Hayes. Both are probably late 15th- or early 16th-century but nothing is known of the holdings attached to them when built.
Plaish Hall was built in brick c. 1580 for William Leighton, but the great majority of buildings in the parish in the late 16th and early 17th century were timber framed. In Cardington village surviving examples include Chapel House, the Maltster's Tap, the Royal Oak, cross wings at the Barracks and at Manor Farm, and a barn adjoining Rose Cottage; elsewhere they include Penkridge Hall, Broome Hall Farm, a cross wing and barn at Shootrough Farm, three bays of the Dayhouse at Lydley Hayes, the east range of Chatwall Hall the core of Chatwall Home Farm and a barn at Dayhouse Farm in Holt Preen. The demolished Court House at Lydley Hayes was another example and is well documented. The larger farms, mostly late 16th- to 18th-century, exhibit a wide variety of plans and added wings. In the early 17th century, as can be seen in the Barracks, stone chimneys began to be added to existing houses and open halls had upper floors inserted.
Soon afterwards local stone (available on Hoar Edge) began to be used more widely in the parish, at least in chief houses. One of the first such buildings, probably built by the Leightons of Plaish, was Holt Farm, also original for the adoption of the E plan and the reception hall. Other 17th-century stone buildings include the hall and west range of Chatwall Hall (probably 1659); Chatwall Home Farm and Bowman Hill Farm (both mid to late 17th-century; Enchmarsh Lower Farm (1677); Grove Farm, Cardington (1683); Broome Farm and its buildings (c. 1700); Chatwall Home Farm (c. 1700); and the hall range of Manor Farm, Cardington (c. 1700). Notable later examples include Willstone Lower Farm (1738); Cardington vicarage (c. 1819); and the schoolmaster's house in Cardington (mid 18th-century). By the later 18th century the parish had many substantial farmhouses; the residents of some aspired to gentility, and between 1681 and 1775 there were at least 12 families of parish gentlemen. 'Very many of the county gentlemen of small fortunes', it was noted in 1793, 'lived in sufficient houses of their own within this parish till of late years, the sons of whom are removed to towns for the benefit of trade or have run through their property.' Between 1750 and 1841 Chatwall shrank from four substantial houses to the two surviving now.
In 1801 the parish's population was 623. It peaked at 768 in 1861 and then fell steadily to 352 in 1981. By the later 18th century even cottages and minor agricultural buildings were built in stone. Brick was rarely used until the later 20th century. Of the few new houses built then, most were single dwellings, and Manor Meadow, a group of five detached houses built on the northern edge of Cardington village c. 19867, was exceptional. Cardington, containing perhaps a third (c. 250) of the parish's inhabitants in 1841, remained the only populous village in what was otherwise a landscape of hamlets, farms, and squatter cottages. A picturesque stone-built village, loosely grouped around the church, Cardington was designated a conservation area in 1977.