Notes on the History of the CHURCH and PARISH of CARDINGTON.

 

[This is believed to have been written by G. B. H. Bishop who was appointed vicar of Cardington in 1914 and was killed in action on 27 May 1918 whilst attached as Chaplain to the 6th Battalion The Northumberland Fusiliers.]

 

The parish of Cardington, lying to the north-east of the town of Church Stretton in the county of Salop contains 6,685 acres, and is one of the largest in Shropshire.  In addition to the village of Cardington it includes the hamlets of Broome, Chatwall, Comley, Enchmarsh, Holt Preen, Lydley Heyes, Plaish, Wilstone, and a part of Gretton.  At the census of 1911 the population numbered 587 persons, nearly all of whom were engaged in farming.

 

The country is very hilly, and contains some fine scenery.  The larger part of the Caradoc, (1,506 feet above the sea level), the whole of the Lawley Hill, (1,237 feet), Hoar Edge, and Chatwell Ridge, are the chief hills in the parish, and to the south-east lie the Cardington and Hope Bowdler hills, which are, however, just over the boundary.  Thus, except to the north-east, where the river Severn winds past Cressage and Buildwas, Cardington is surrounded by hills.  The climate is bracing, and the temperature lower both in summer and winter than in less  elevated districts.

 

The remains of old trenches on the Caradoc and Lawley Hills show us that the history of the parish goes back to very ancient times indeed.  We know that great battles were fought here in the year 50 A.D., that is to say not long after the Ascension of Jesus Christ.  In those far-off days our country was not called England, nor had the English come from over the sea to make it their home.  The people who then lived in Britain were of the same race as the Welsh, and we call them the Ancient Britons.  They were tall, fair-haired people, brave and warlike, but too independent to join together under one king.  Instead they lived apart in small tribes, each under its own chief, and spent their time in hunting, in tilling the soil, and in guarding their large herds of cattle.  It is not very likely that any of them lived in the parish of Cardington, for at that time the district was covered with a huge forest, where wolves, bears, and deer were common.

 

The Roman Conquerors.

 

It was in the year 43 A.D. that the Roman Emperor Claudius, who is twice mentioned in the Bible, (Acts X1. 28 and XV111.2), came with a great army to conquer the Britons.  The Britons were splendid fighting men, but their training was bad, and they stood no chance of defeating the well-armed and well-drilled Roman soldiers.  The south of Britain was soon conquered, and Claudius went back to Rome, leaving his generals to complete the conquest of the country.  Ostorius Scapula was the general who attacked the Britons in this neighbourhood.  They were more savage than those in the south, and the hills and forests of the district gave them some advantage over the Romans.  Caradoc (or Caractacus) was the British leader, and so brave and skilful was he that it was several years before the Britons were finally defeated.  There can be small doubt that the three lines of trenches on the top of Caradoc Hill were held by Caradoc himself in one of his last brave struggles against the unconquerable Romans.  For centuries the Romans were masters of Britain, and there are many existing signs of the improvements they made.  For example Watling Street, the western boundary of the parish, was a military road passing from Wroxeter (Uriconium), through Herefordshire, to south Wales;  the  Causeway was part of a similar road, paved in places with large stones running from the Roman camp at Rushbury to Watling Street through Gretton and Lower Chatwall.  In a hilly country covered with great forests these roads must have been of great value for moving large bodies of armed men.

During the Roman occupation Christianity was first introduced into this country.  In the year 430 A.D. the Romans withdrew from Britain after having ruled for three hundred and sixty years.  Once more the Britons were masters in their own land, but this state of affairs did not last long.  A new and more terrible enemy began to attack them.  This new foe was a race of savage pirates from a district lying to the north of Germany.  They belonged to several tribes, but in time came to be known as the English.

 

The English Conquerors.

 

The English made their first serious attack on the Britons less than twenty years after the Romans had gone.  They were still heathens, and consequently they behaved with the greatest cruelty to the Britons whom they slew in great numbers, plundering and burning towns and villages, houses and churches alike.  Under the peaceful rule of the Romans the Britons had forgotten how to fight;  nevertheless they took up arms and offered a brave resistance to their savage foe.  It was more than one hundred years before the English reached what is now called Shropshire, driving the Britons before them into Wales, where they still live, for the Welsh are the true descendants of the old Britons.  About this time southern Britain became known as England, the land of the English.

 

Having conquered as much land as they needed the English armies disbanded, and the different families then chose a place where they would settle down.  The name ‘Cardington’ tells us what happened here.  Among the English chiefs was a warrior named Carda, whose sons and followers were called the Cardinga.  We can picture their coming into this neighbourhood and thinking that it would be a good place in which to build their ‘ton’ or town.  At any rate they made their home here, and the village which they built became known as Cardington, or the town of the sons of Carda.  Other early settlements in the parish were Grotington (Gretton), Plesham (Plaish), Litlega (Lydley Heys), and Brame (Broome). Probably they were all well established by the year 700 A.D.

 

About 787 A.D. the English were attacked by the Danes, who landed on the east coast and ravaged the country in all directions.  As Shropshire is so far from the North Sea it suffered little from these invaders, who gradually settled in the eastern counties and became peaceful subjects of the English kings.  Of these kings the greatest was Alfred who ruled over south-west England from 871 to 901 A.D.  By his time Cardington must have become quite an important place, for the lord of the manor had authority to hold a court of law* which ranked as a king`s court.

 

*Note:  It was later described as ‘a court leet, and court baron, and court customary, with view of frank pledge’.

 

The date when Christianity became the religion of the Shropshire English is not known but it is certain that the missionaries came from two different parts of the Catholic Church.  South Shropshire was converted by missionaries from the church in southern England by Pope Gregory the Great, while north Shropshire received the Gospel from priests who came from the old British church in the north.  The religious records of the parish do not go back so far as this, but we may take it for granted that an important place, such as Cardington was then, would not be long without its church.  Probably the building was small, but strongly built of stout oaken logs from the neighbouring woods, and with the joints filled with rough plaster to keep out the draughts.  At any rate this was the kind of building found in most country parishes of those days, for the English were not great builders.

 

For about seventy-five years after the death of King Alfred the country prospered under his descendants, but there followed a time of great trouble and unrest which came to a head on the death of King Edward  the Confessor in 1066.  At that time Cardington belonged to two thanes or gentlemen, each of whom bore the name of Austin.  Plaish belonged to the thane Godwin, Lydley Heys to Auti, Broome was shared between Turstin and Austin, and Gretton between Alric and Otro.  All these thanes except Auti were to lose their property, and the whole of England was to pass once more into the hands of a foreign invader.

 

The Norman Conquerors.

 

In the year 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, landed on the south coast with a large army and there defeated the English King Harold in the battle of Hastings.  On Christmas  Day William was crowned king of  England in Westminster Abbey.  To reward his followers for their services William took away from the English nobles all their estates and gave them to his Normans.  The whole of Shropshire the King gave to his cousin Roger de Montgomery whom he made Earl of  Shrewsbury in 1069.  Wherever the English owners resisted, the King punished them terribly, slaying everyone he could catch, burning and laying waste their estates.  It seems that the thanes of Gretton offered resistance and suffered accordingly, for we read that Gretton was taken from them and given to the lords Rainald and Robert, and “when they received it it was waste”. This may have taken place during the rebellion of Edric in Herefordshire and Shropshire.  In five years William became the master of England.  The English nobles were all either killed or ruined, and the people, having no leaders, submitted quietly to their conqueror.  All high offices, both in Church and State, were given to Normans, and we must admit that this was a very good thing, for the Normans were a noble race, more civilised and clever than the English.  They were never turned out, and it is still the boast of many fine old English families like the Corbetts of Longnor that they are descended from a Norman gentleman who came from over the seas with William the Conqueror.

 

Now let us see how Cardington fared at this time.  In a great record of all the estates in England known as the Domesday Book, written for the king in 1085, we read as follows:  ‘Rainald holds Cardintune (as tenant of the Earl Roger of Shrewsbury).  Austin and another Austin held it in King Edward’s time for two manors.  Here  there are five hides (of land).  In the demesne is one ox-team and five serfs (labourers), fifteen villeins (small-holders), and one radman (farmer), with seven teams between them all, and there might be eight more teams here. There are two leagues of wood here.  In the time of King Edward the manor was worth forty shillings’ (per annum):  ‘now it is worth the same’.  (Note: forty shillings seems a small rent for a large estate, but it should be remembered that a shilling in those days was worth a great deal more than it is today).

 

From the same book we  learn that Plaish was held by the powerful Baron Roger de Lacy (of Stanton Lacy, and nearly one hundred other manors).  Broome was held by the great Earl himself.  Gretton went with Cardington to the lord Rainald, but Lydley remained in the possession of the old English owner Auti, though he lost it later on, it was then given to Herbert FitzHelgot (or Holgate). Chatwall does not seem to be mentioned in Domesday Book.  Perhaps it was then considered to be a part of Broome.

 

The Viscount Rainald, lord of Cardington and Gretton and of many other manors as well, was Sheriff of Shropshire, and greatest of all the nobles who owned the Earl of Shrewsbury as their chief.  He left all his vast estates to his only child, a daughter, who married Alan Fitz-Flaald, founder of the great family of the Fitz-Alans, Earls of Arundel, whose present descendant, Henry Fitzalan Howard, Duke of Norfolk, is still owner of great estates in this country.  The grandson of Rainald, William Fitz-Alan, thus became lord of Cardington, but he did not keep it long.  Together with Enchmarsh and half of Chatwall he presented Cardington to the Knights of the Temple who were already owners of Lydley Heyes.  From this time we find that Lydley and Cardington are considered as one estate.

 

The Knights Templars.

 

For a space we must turn our attention to the Holy Land.  In the year 1065 Palestine had been conquered by the heathen Turks who hindered and cruelly treated Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.  So much indignation was aroused in Europe that great efforts were made to drive the Turks out of Palestine.  In 1119 a number of Christian knights bound themselves by solemn vows to guard the roads to Jerusalem so that pilgrims could go there in peace.  They were called the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem.  Their rules were very strict.  No Templar was allowed  to marry or possess property of his own, nor could he join in hunting or any worldly pleasures.  The Templars were very popular and were held in great honour, so that they were given many estates and became powerful and wealthy.  No taxes could be taken from their lands for the king.  Their houses were to be found in all countries of western Europe.

 

The first Shropshire manor given to the Templars was that round the Lawley, known as Lydley Heys, and here they set up their headquarters for the county.  A few years later William Fitzalan gave them Cardington, Enchmarsh, and half of Chatwall as we have seen.  He also ordered the Rector of Cardington to pay them three merks each year, and the tenant of Cardington Mill had to pay five shillings.  In 1167 the parish was known as Templars’ Cardington, and the people shared in the privileges of the Knights.  Thus on three occasions in 1167, 1187, and 1200, the King’s Justice of the Forest fined the people of Cardington for taking trees from the woods, but in 1187and 1200 the Knights claimed that they could not be taxed or fined, and the Judge had to let them off.

 

By this time the nave of our present church of S.James had been built.  The parish priest was then a rector, but it was not long before the church with all its property was given to the Templars.  This was bad for the parish.  The prior or head of the Templars was now rector of Cardington, but as he was a soldier and not a priest he could not ‘minister the Word and Sacraments’ to the people.  Instead he took all the money of the rectory, and with part of it he paid some poor priest a small sum to act as vicar in his place.  From that time onwards a large part of the income of the church has gone to the lay rector, while the vicar has the remainder.  (The word ‘vicar’ means one who does work on behalf of someone else).

 

Through the learning and kindness of the Reverend W.D.G.Fletcher, Vicar of Shelton and Oxon, an ancient paper found in the parish safe has been translated, and we now can read how “the Venerable Father, the Lord William by the grace of God, Bishop of Hereford” from 1186 to 1200, gave his approval to this bad custom of making soldiers and others rectors of churches.  Here is his letter:

 

To all (the sons) of our holy (italics) Mother the Church to whom this present writing shall come, William by the grace of God, the humble minister of the Church of Hereford (sends) eternal greeting in the Lord.  Justice requires and reason approves that when benefices have been rightly conferred upon religious men they should be protected by episcopal authority.  Moreover, (the cause) of piety advises anew, that benefices so conferred and confirmed should be applied to the uses required of them.  For this cause we grant to our beloved sons in Christ the brethren of the Knights Templars of Jerusalem, who are continually fighting for the faith of Christ against the enemies of the faith, and not only with their property and possessions but also with their own bodies, that it be pleasing and lawful to entrust to them the Church of Kerdintun with all its appurtenances to their own uses, and all things from that  

Place coming to the Pope;  saving the right of Ernald the Chaplain during his life; saving also

The episcopal dues and the dignity of the Church of Hereford.

Wherefore because we wish this present writing to obtain the force of perpetual stability, we have taken care to confirm it with the defence of our Seal.  These being witnesses: Hugh, Archdeacon of Salop:  Master Robert Folet: Master Richard de Hamptun: Master John  Clementis: Master William the Chaplain: Reginald Foliott:  Thomas Foliott:  Ralph Deacon:   and many others.  (End of italics).

 

The above document, which is considered very important, is confirmed after careful examination by the Official of the Archdeacon of London on December the 9th, 1330.  It is worth noting that   after the Church had been given to the Templars, the yearly tax which every parish had to pay to the Pope went to the Templars instead, and so Cardington was among the few places which were free from taxes to the great foreign Bishop.

 

The Templars had thirty four tenants in the manor of Cardington.  Of  these six paid a small sum each year ‘pro fraternitate’, that is to say for the privilege of being regarded as associates of the Templars and so having their protection.  Among these six were Inard the Vicar, who paid six pence, and Matilda, his wife, who paid four pence per annum.  This is a very interesting fact because in those days the clergy were strictly forbidden to marry.

 

Some time after the year 1200, considerable improvements were made to the Church.  The chancel was pulled down and the present roomy chancel was built:  the tower was completed, and several large windows were opened in the wall of the nave.  All these alterations were made in the new style of building which is called ‘Early English’.

 

In 1291 a survey of all church property in the land was held on behalf of Pope Nicholas.  For many years the Popes of Rome had received enormous sums of money from the Church of England, but Pope Nicholas wanted still more, and ordered this survey to see how he could get it.  In the record we find that Cardington Church and its property was valued at £17.6.8 yearly in the money of those days.  Of this sum the Vicar only received £4.  The rest went to the Templars.

 

The fall of the Templars was now at hand.  They had become so rich and powerful that they began to interfere with matters which did not concern them.  About the year 1307 they fell into disgrace.  They were disbanded in 1312 and their vast possessions were taken away.  Many estates were returned to those who had given them, and the rest were given to the Knights of the Hospital of S.John of Jerusalem, another order of a similar kind.  The manor of Cardington was restored to the Fitzalans, who presented it to the Knights Hospitallers.  By 1316, however, we find that the Hospitallers had returned it to Edmund Fitzqlan, Earl of Arundel.  Eight years later  the Grand Prior of the Knights of S.John confirmed this gift, keeping only the rectory of the Church with its endowments for his order.  For nearly two hundred and fifty years the manor of Lydley and Cardington remained the possession of the Earls of Arundel.

 

In 1559 Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, sold the manor to Rowland Haywood, esquire.  In 1570 Sir Rowland Haywood, Knight, Lord Mayor of London, let part of Cardington to Thomas Thynne of Botvyl.  In1589 Sir Richard Haywood held a court in the manor, and William Leighton of Plaish was his steward.  In 1622 Sir John Haywood, son of Sir Rowland, obtained the King’s licence to sell Lydley and Cardington to Edward Corbett, esquire, for £3,200.  Edward Corbett, a descendant of Sir Robert Fitz-Corbett, a Norman knight from Caux, was afterwards knighted and became Sheriff of Salop.  The manor continued in the direct line until the death of Sir Richard Corbett, Baronet, in1774.  He was succeeded by his cousin who died childless in 1804, and then the manor passed to another cousin, Joseph Plymley, (the Archdeacon of Salop) who took the name of Corbett.  From Archdeacon Corbett the present lords of the manor, the Corbetts of Longnor, are descended.