The history of Claverley Parish

CLAVERLEY PARISH

 

The parish of Claverley covers an area of some 8,185 acres, roughly six miles east of Bridgnorth, enclosed within distinct sandstone ridges to the west and the north east. On its eastern boundary it is contiguous with the county boundary of Shropshire and Staffordshire. To the west and north, it bounds Worfield and Rudge parishes, and to the south Quatt Malvern and Alveley parishes. At its centre is the settlement of Claverley, an old and pretty village with its ancient church at the centre.

Around it are a number of small hamlets, namely Aston, Beobridge, Chyknell, Dallicot, Draycott, Farmcote, Gatacre, Heathton, High Grosvenor, Hopstone, Long Common, Ludstone, Rudge Heath, Rushmere, Shipley, Sutton, Sytchouse Green, Wall Hill and Woundale.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

 

The parish of Claverley has very ancient foundations. There is evidence to suggest the presence of human settlement in the parish predating the last ice age, and certainly after the ice sheets retreated, there is  evidence of primitive agricultural activity shown by the discovery of a Neolithic hand mill dating from about the time of Stonehenge. There is further evidence of activity dating from the bronze and iron ages, and tools from the time have been discovered. Furthermore, at the southern extremity of the parish, near to Mose there is an old earthwork known as Burf Castle, dating from Saxon times or earlier.

In this period, the area was principally covered in forest, the Forest of Morfe, and Claverley would have been one of a number of clearings within it. Indeed the name Claverley may be derived from Anglo Saxon for Clover lea meaning ‘a clearing of clover’. The oldest surviving organism in the parish is the yew tree to the north east of the Church of All Saints, which  has been dated back 2,500 years, and the church is built upon foundations which date back to Roman times, probably indicating the site was a place of pagan worship before its appropriation to the church. During the church restoration of 1902, a number of burials of Roman origin were uncovered which add weight to this theory.

Christianity was established in Claverley within a hundred years of the arrival of St.Augustine in Britain in 597, and the parish of Claverley is said to date from 675AD. There is certainly a Saxon foundation beneath the present church, which replaced it in stages beginning in 1017.

Unusually the church has two fonts, and the oldest is a rough hewn Saxon bowl dating back to the 7th century. By the time of the Norman Conquest and the Domesday Book, parish life was well established. The entry states:

“Earl Roger holds Claverley. There are 20 hides. Earl Algar held it. There is land for 32 ploughs. In the demesne, there are 5 ploughs (or teams), and 32 villeins and 13 cottagers who have 23 ploughs. There is a mill worth 5 shillings, and 12 acres of meadow. The wood is 2 miles long and half a mile wide. In the time of King Edward it was worth £7.10/-. It is now worth £10.” The dominant local family were the Gatacres, whose grant was said to date back to King Edward the Confessor, and they held land in the parish until the end of the 20th century, when the remnants of the estate were finally sold. The parish was enclosed by the Forest of Morfe,  which was held as a Royal Forest, and a hunting lodge was built at High Grosvenor on the north western extremity of the parish, on the ridge overlooking Bridgnorth. Another property known as King’s Barn at Farmcote has origins dating back to 1431, and is also thought to have begun its existence as a hunting lodge. Claverley became a Royal Manor in 1102 when the endowment of the church was 40 marks. Evidence of royal patronage exists also in the extensive wall paintings in the church dating from approximately 1220. The Old Vicarage dates back to the early 16th century. Subsequently the income and lands of Claverley became appropriated to the Deanery of Brug or Bridgnorth.

 

MODERN CLAVERLEY

 

The modern era of Claverley dates back to the reformation when the monastic lands of Bridgnorth were appropriated by the crown and the lands sold. This resulted in the building of a number of the principal buildings of the parish standing today, notably Powke Hall and Chyknell; Ludstone Hall was also remodelled. At this time, the church was held within the archdeaconry of Stafford, indicating that it has varied throughout history between the counties of Staffordshire and Shropshire.

Boards within the church indicate the founding of a school within the parish in 1659, and despite some moves of premises throughout, the village school remains a very important part of the life of the community in the parish. At the same time and subsequently, a number of bequests were made to the poor of the parish, which caused the foundation of what is now known as the Claverley Charities, which still function today, with the Vicar and Churchwardens as trustees. By 1700, estimates put the parish population at between 880 and 1100, not far short of its present numbers. Malting was a major concern within the parish, and there were maltings at Aston Hall, New Inns farm, Wall Hill, Hopstone Farm and in Church Street, just below the modern village hall. The roads were not good, and travel to London took four days by gig. The workhouse was in existence by 1777 with a gaol underneath. This is now a residence on the Bull Ring where The Glynne Arms was built in 1875, now the home of a private nursery.

During the 20th century, the population faltered as the first world war and the decline of agriculture took their effect, but this was halted after the second world war by a number of developments in Claverley Village. Chronologically, these took place at Danford and Clover Heath and Spicers Close in the 1950s, The Wold in the 1960s, Lodge Park in the 1970s, and The Paddock and Danesbrook in the 1990s. The surrounding hamlets have also expanded marginally throughout the period through infill development and the conversion of farm buildings. Major work in the village can be seen from the cutting of Cottons Holloway, which can be seen on the road from Claverley Village north to Ludstone, and then to Rudge. Agriculture remains the principal business within the parish, although many of its residents find work elsewhere, principally within the West Midlands conurbation.